Montara Mountain: Top Five Reasons We Love to Hike and Bike Here
Montara Mountain perches above the rugged Pacific Coast north of Montara and south of Pacifica, above the infamous Devil’s Slide. If you’re willing to climb you’re afforded absolutely spectacular views.
On my birthday several years ago, I hiked up to an overlook point along the Gray Whale Cove trail to watch an early morning lunar eclipse with my husband Bill. Even if you’re not much of a climber, Gray Whale Cove trail is a 2 mile loop with lots of amazing views of the hidden coves and beaches (including the clothing optional Gray Whale Cove) below.
One of my favorite hikes is a long one (about 10 miles) but not particularly steep - along old San Pedro Road which connected Montara and Pacifica from 1914 to 1937 as Coastside Boulevard (Highway 57). Honestly, I don’t believe in ghosts but there is a spooky quality to this hike where you’ll spy rusted old vehicles in ravines below to remind you of just how dangerous a road this was. This is a great ride for mountain bikers who enjoy jumping over gaps in the road and major potholes. The trail is accessible by road bike, but is not recommended without all terrain equipment. Before there were automobiles, the Portola expedition came this way on their way to "discover" San Francisco Bay though they used the native American trail (known as the Indian trail) which was much steeper and would have been impassable for automobiles. The Spanish explorers didn’t care for it much.
San Bruno elfin butterfly is rare, endemic to a small area of the San Francisco peninsula because it relies on its host plant which also makes its home on Montara Mountain, the broadleaf stonecrop. There’s a small window of opportunity to see this delicate little butterfly in the spring, and on a recent hike I spied several. I’m not a botanist but there is a fabulous array of native and non-native plants along the trails (including large stands of poison oak, so watch out). In the spring and summer months, there are lots of flowering plants, including lupin and wild iris. The rare manzanita Arctostaphylos montaraensis was named for Montara Mountain.
I readily admit that I am a weather junkie! Along the hike to the summit, I’ve experienced hot dry conditions making the hike up the steep trail extra sweaty. Then on the way down the fog may roll in, turning sweat to what feels like icicles clinging to my back. In spite of the discomfort, there is nothing like the thrill of watching the sunlight dancing on the surf below - especially when revealed through wisps of fog. I love the fog swirling around the cypress trees on old Pedro Mountain Road on my journey back down the hill.
We have been experiencing a drought here in California the last few years, but droughts are cyclical. The early spring and late winter months are wonderful times to hike or bike along old Pedro Mountain Road or San Pedro Park trails - you’ll come across hidden waterfalls. Honestly, if you’re willing to go device-free and enjoy the sounds of the birds and wind, you’ll hear the gurgling of hidden springs all along the way.
Interested in experiencing the evasive wonder of Montara Mountain? Come with us on one of our guided hikes!
Hiker and ex-bicyclist