Walks and Hikes in Half Moon Bay

Wanna go for a sunset hike on the Half Moon Bay coastside?
From time to time various people have asked me for suggestions for where to go for an easy hike in Half Moon Bay, usually tied with a request to see the sunset on the ocean.
The short answer is that there are tons of great walks on the Coastside but some can be tricky to find and the tricky ones aren’t always that much better than the easy ones and which walk you want depends on what you’re after.  If you’re after solitude, though, you need to work a bit harder and have some local knowledge which I will not impart. I’m one of the locals and we really like that there are still places we can go to get away from visitors.
If you want an easy walk on a paved trail there are tons of great options built around the paved Coastside trail, which runs all along the Coast in Half Moon Bay, beginning near the Miramar Beach Restaurant at the north end and ending up at Poplar Street  in the south. The trail continues past Poplar as a dirt trail and can be followed all the way out to the Ritz Carlton. The best places to pick up the Coastside trail in my opinion are at the Miramar or at State Beach at the end of Kelly Avenue in HMB. Parking is free at the Miramar end but you might need to hunt for street parking a bit. State Beach is a state park so there’s a parking fee but it’s worth it.
If you want an easy rural hike instead of a paved stroll you have different options. One of my personal favorites is to hike the Moss Beach highlands above the airport and Mavericks, just north of Princeton harbor. There’s no trail map of the Mavericks highlands but you don’t really need one. You’ve got the ocean/cliffs on one side and the airport on the other so you’ll always know where you are. Just go wander, it’s lovely, very safe and there are other folks walking dogs out there if you need a pointer. Bring a flashlight or headlamp if you’re going to stay out past sunset, it gets dark quick.
The north end of the highlands is near the Moss Beach Distillery,  where you can have a nice meal or just sit around with a beach blanket and hot drink if you like. The easiest way to access the trail system and avoid other people is to go here:
There’s a small parking pullout at the corner of Ocean Blvd and Bernal Ave that you can put your car in and then just start walking southwards on the trails. Some of the roads getting to that area are closed because of slide damage but you can get there quite easily, just don’t be afraid when you see that one road is coned off, there are others that will let you through.
The Mavericks parking lot at the south end of the highlands is shown in the center of this map.
As you can see, if you want to access the trails you would walk up the paved driveway across the road from the parking area and then just pick any trail and start walking. That parking lot can get full at times but if you park there you also have the option of following the harbor trail out to the bottom of the Mavericks cliffs instead of walking the highlands. If the tide is low that can be a fun place to go.
One other option, which is a real favorite of mine, is to head to Montara Mountain/McNee Ranch State Park and walk the Grey Whale trail, which is well marked, to these two benches and enjoy the sunset at the spot that is routinely voted the “Best Place to Kiss on the Coast“. This is an easy hike and can be done either as a singletrack walk or you can follow the old semi-paved road for the majority of the hike. If you follow the road, turn left at the ranger residence, then left again on the first piece of singletrack after you pass the picnic benches. That’ll put you on the grey Whale trail, now turn right and follow the trail out to the two benches. Do not be deceived by the single rickety bench you pass on the way, that is not your destination. Also do not go up the horrendously steep and rutted hill, that is not your destination. Stay on the level trail and don’t touch those nice leafy bushes on the side of the trail, that’s poison oak.
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