Tucked behind a suburb on the Peninsula, Pillar Point Bluff County Park is a slice of coastal paradise, with its 220 acres of ocean-bluff beauty. Hike the 1.4-mile Jean Lauer Trail loop for some sweet coastal views. From the trailhead on Alvarado Avenue, hike the dirt path through windswept prairie.
Bird lovers will appreciate the dense shrubs, including coyote bush, which provide habitat for western meadowlarks and California towhees. Birds chirp as you continue along the path, and in the distance you can detect the sound of surf. Soon the trail turns to the left and then immediately to the right.
Looking east, there’s the Half Moon Bay airport and a patchwork of farmlands sheltered by Montara Mountain. The sounds of waves breaking become more audible until suddenly a gorgeous ocean viewpoint greets you.
Take a seat on the wooden bench, perfectly set for the scenery. A lush ravine descends to the protected Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. As the trail continues, the path becomes paved and panoramas begin to change. You can make out the Princeton harbor to the southeast and to the southwest the Air Force Tracking Station perched on Pillar Point Bluff.
If you have binoculars, you can even see the Mavericks surf break about one mile to the west. Turn around to finish the loop trail. At the trail junction, you’ll descend a hillside through thick vegetation (here the trail is somewhat uneven, so watch your step). Continue about a half-mile, until heading back uphill to finish the loop. Enjoy the refreshing feel of salty sea breezes as you complete this easy but rewarding hike.
BONUS: Make a quick detour (20-minute walk or 3-minute drive) to the Moss Beach Distillery. This historic monument appears unassuming from the exterior, but inside it’s a cool restaurant with romantic ambience. Both the dining room and the dog-friendly outdoor patio offer beautiful ocean vistas. Another option for delicious seafood meals is Pillar Point Harbor (less than a 10-minute drive). Local favorites are Barbara’s Fishtrap and Sam’s Chowder House.
Pillar Point Bluff County Park is open from sunrise until sunset, free of charge. Note about directions: The park has two entrances. The main entrance, with a parking lot and restrooms, is at 840 Airport St. (Google Maps will take you here). However, for the Jean Lauer Trail, you will use the 1 Alvarado St. entrance (and park in the residential neighborhood). To arrive here from Hwy. 1 (coming from San Francisco), take a right on Cypress Ave. (which turns left and becomes Airport St.). Next, turn right on Los Banos Ave., left on Park Ave., right on La Grande Ave., left on San Ramon Ave., right on San Lucas Ave. (which becomes Ocean Blvd.), left on Precita, and right onto Alvarado Ave. Dog-friendly!