Cowell Ranch Beach Access Trail
The Half Moon Bay coastside offers a surprising number of hiking opportunities. From easy paved walks with almost no elevation change to Montara’s impressive peak towering almost 2,000 feet above the sea, there is a trail for hikers of every ability level.
While the longest and highest trails always piqued my interest growing up in this area, years of exploration have lead me to deep appreciation for some of the shorter trails tucked away in the quieter corners of our community.
One of these hidden gems is located just a few miles south of Half Moon Bay proper. Cowell Ranch beach and access trail is a quiet escape. An easy half-mile path leads visitors from an ample parking lot directly to a beautiful beach.
After descending the steps to Cowell Ranch beach, yellow sandstone cliffs tower above beach goers and offer the sensation of near-isolation. Cut off from the noise of highway-1 traffic and out of view of any buildings, one almost feels transported to a place with no people at all.
This is an easy walk with ample free parking, but for those looking to venture further, the trail system extends south along the clifftops and connects to another trailhead, the Cowell-Purisima trail head, just over 2 miles away. Just beyond that trailhead and parking lot is Seal Rock (not to be confused with the Seal Rocks of San Francisco). Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of the famous harbor seals, the rock’s namesake.
The wonderful thing about this trail system is its versatility. It offers an easy path to the beach with convenient parking and a longer adventure for those who’d like to see more of this quiet stretch of coast. With two trailheads and parking lots, there’s even the possibility for a one-way 2.5 mile hike from the Cowell Ranch beach access parking lot to the Cowell-Purisima parking lot, provided hikers make the proper arrangements for drop-off and pickup.
As a guide at Half Moon Bay Coastside Tours, I’m excited and honored by the opportunity to share this sliver of tranquility just south of our town. After all, the best adventures are those taken in good company.
Thanks for reading and we'll see you here on the coast!
Michael Klear, Half Moon Bay Coastside Tours guide and Blogger