Rising from the sea, Pacifica’s Montara Mountain strikes an impressive pose that’s visible from much of the Bay Area. One way to access its 1,900-foot-high peak is via a straight-up fire-road-climb on the western slope. But there’s also a 7-mile (round-trip) route with a gentler grade and views that are just as epic. From San Pedro Valley Park
, follow Montara Trail through a eucalyptus forest that snakes up the northern slope on well-maintained switchbacks. Keep an eye out for bobcats, which are prevalent in these parts. After a mile, the trail transitions into the rocky chaparral and manzanita landscape of the upper mountain. The northward vista is spectacular, highlighted by the vast expanse of rocky Pacific coastline and the twin towers of the Golden Gate Bridge peaking above San Francisco’s dotted hillsides. Montara’s oddly iconic radio tower marks its summit. Soak in the near-360-degree Bay Area panorama. For the descent, mix things up by taking the Brooks Creek Trail, which drops through a serene, manzanita-covered canyon with an H2O surprise. Brooks Falls—a wispy seasonal waterfall—is the tallest in San Mateo County. Montarific!
From Highway 1, turn on to Linda Mar Blvd. and continue for 2 miles to the end of the road. The entrance to San Pedro Valley Park will be on the right. The fee is $6. From the parking area, take the Montara Mountain Trail. At mile 2.4, turn left to continue the ascent on the North Peak Access Road. Retrace the route and finish the descent via the Brooks Creek Trail. No dogs.