Montara Mountain Hike
at McNee Ranch State Park, between Pacifica & Montara, CA
Montara Mountain hike at McNee Ranch is a fabulous 7-10 roundtrip mile walk up to the 1898 foot North Peak summit. Several portions are via historic trails once used by Indians, Spanish explorers, and early San Francisco settlers. See McNee Ranch map. For more hikes in the area see Half Moon Bay coastal trails and map.
The views and cloud formations are amazing. On a clear day you can easily see the Farallon Islands (27 miles out to sea) to the west, the San Francisco and Mt Tamalpais to the north, Mount Diablo to the east, and San Mateo bridge crossing SF Bay to the southeast. More Santa Cruz mountains lie to the south.
Mt Tamalpais is in the upper left corner above the clouds.
Depending on which trailhead you start at, the round trip is seven miles or more. Since this is a “mountain” you should be in reasonable shape in order to enjoy the walk and, even so, be careful coming down to avoid sliding and possibly falling on the gravel. The most beautiful part of the overall hike will be the bottom half, with its ocean views, so if you decide the whole thing is too much exercise just turn around or take the Gray Whale Cove trail portion only.
We like to park at Gray Whale Cove Beach parking lot, start up the Gray Whale Cove trail (at #3 on trail map), then climb an informal footpath that heads east from the main trail about 200 yards from the trailhead and climbs directly up the mountain. This informal path is much steeper but does shorten the total distance to North Peak.
Views can vary dramatically depending on changing weather conditions and exactly how high you are on the mountain. For example, it might be hazy at the bottom, have dense clouds in the middle, and bright hot sun at the top … or many variations thereof. Often there is just a fresh pleasant ocean breeze but sometimes it can get quite warm or cool as well all on the same trip. Hint: Take water for the climb and layered clothing for the descent or in case fog rolls in.
An Excellent Shorter Option
If you prefer a short, mostly flat, 2-mile round trip, try just the Gray Whale Cove trail portion between the Gray Whale Cove parking lot (#3 on trail map) and the McNee Ranch Trailhead (#2). It follows the shoreline and provides outstanding coastal views. During whale migration season you can sometimes even spot whales swimming close to the beaches.
Access: The three most popular trailheads accessing McNee Ranch State Park are as follow:
- McNee Ranch trailhead #2 on trail map. There are only a few parking spots at the entrance but many more a few hundred feet south at Montara Beach. There are probably restroom facilities at Montara Beach as well.
- Gray Whale Cove parking lot #3 on trail map. Parking here is usually good. The trailhead is at the south end of the lot. Gray Whale Cove Beach State Park is just across Hwy 1 from here as well.
- San Pedro Valley Park at the east end of Linda Mar Blvd in Pacifica #4 on trail map. This is the shortest official route but there is a charge for parking in San Pedro Valley Park and dogs are not allowed.
- More trailheads are in Montara and Pacifica as indicated on the trail map.
Hours: 8 am to sunset.
Dogs, etc: McNee Ranch Park is dog-friendly (note: but not San Pedro Valley Park). Mountain bikes are also allowed. Expect to see several dogs, mountain bikes, and other hikers especially on weekend afternoons.
Facilities: No restrooms or water are available within McNee Park. Don’t forget water for your dog if you go to the top on a hot day.
- Map to McNee Ranch hiking
- Brochure including a Map of San Pedro Valley Park – 2.4 miles 1 way to Montara Mountain summit via Montara Mountain trail
- Devil’s Slide Trail map – Beautiful new 1.3 mile (one-way) trail just north of McNee Ranch
- Half Moon Bay coastal trails and map
- Best SF Bay area dog walks and map
- Back from Montara Mountain Hike to Half Moon Bay Coastal Trails
- Top of page and Home page