Montara State Beach is a lesser-known treasure on Highway 1, but is by far the most clean and scenic beach in San Mateo County. It’s located just twenty miles south of San Francisco and about eight miles north of Half Moon Bay. Its dramatic cliffs and abundance of wildflowers are merely a bonus for visitors here, however, because most people parked in the easy-to-miss dirt lots are avid surfers, hikers, or bikers. It’s a great destination for groups with varied interests, and it never gets packed with people like Pacifica, or god-forbid, Stinson Beach on a weekend : O
The majority of people at Montara are sufers, parking at the North end of the beach and walking down a long and steep stairway from the bluffs to the beach. The waves can vary widely from larger beginner waves to HUGE sets. A lot of people don’t realize that Montara Mountain (also known as McNee Ranch) is a part of the state beach, and a host for amazing trails overlooking the coast and the infamous Devil’s Slide. One reason for this is the very tiny parking lot at the trail head. Perhaps this is why the trails here never seem over-crowded.
Hiking or trail-running at McNee Ranch is a little more rural than most state parks. There’s no visitor center and no restrooms. But you’ll get great hill intervals leading to steep fire roads and a 1900 ft. peak! If you want an easier option, there is a short little jaunt that goes North up Gray Whale Cove Trail to an incredible rest bench overlooking Montara beach.
Weather: Very unpredictable. Bright warm sun can give way to fog and coastal winds. Layer up!
Nearby Points of Interest: Point Montara Lighthouse offers a hostel and breath-taking views!
Nearby Eating: La Costanera (fancy), and Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop (cheap).
What I’m wearing to trail-run Montara Mountain: