Looming like a wilderness lord over the coastal towns of Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, little-visited Montara Mountain offers sweeping ocean views from start to finish. The North Peak Trail climbs along the rugged cliffs around Montara State Beach, gently and gradually for the first couple of miles, then straight up the mountain; the last 2 miles might just give you thigh-burn. But if you can make it to the 1,898-foot peak (7.5 miles round-trip), the view is nothing short of Peninsula panoramic perfection: To the southeast, the Santa Cruz Mountains roll out in layers. Turn to the east and Mt. Diablo rises into view. Down below, the scattered beaches of Half Moon Bay, Gray Whale Cove, and Linda Mar call out. And to the north, Mt. Tam and the San Francisco skyline beckon. It’ll make you wish you had wings.
TIP: The trail is open to mountain bikers, but if you’re thinking of riding this fire road to the top, be warned: the descent is pretty steep and recent heavy rain has rutted out the trail.
The trailhead is 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1, just south of Devil’s Slide and Gray Whale Cove. Look for parking on the east side of the road—there’s enough space for about six cars. The trailhead is marked by a sign that says McNee Ranch Montara State Beach. Take either the Gray Whale Cove singletrack trail or wider Old San Pedro Mountain Road—both lead to the North Peak. Montara is dog-friendly. More information.