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Hike and Explore Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Moss Beach, California



5 miles

Route Type



Added by Sarah Eichstedt

This is a great full day adventure in an often overlooked town off of Highway 1. You will hunt for sea creatures in the tide pools, picnic on the beach, take in gorgeous views on a cliffside hike, and dine fireside while watching the sun set over the ocean. It doesn't get better than this!

Start by checking out the tide tables for Moss Beach/Half Moon Bay or Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. You can do this with a Google Search, or try this link. You will want to plan your trip to arrive at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at low tide so that you will have the best opportunity to explore the tide pools. Try to pick a day where low tide is early in the morning so that you will have the best opportunity to miss the crowds and most of the day to explore the area.

Your day will begin at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach. There is a small sign on the ocean side of Highway 1 that will direct you to the parking lot and ranger station. If the lot is full (as it often is on weekends), you can park in the surrounding neighborhood. Wander down to the beach and out onto the rocks, taking care not to damage any ocean life as you go. Take your time exploring all the tide pools and the abundance of life that they hold. Be sure to observe closely, as you will likely find anemones, urchins, crabs, starfish, and a variety of other creatures. The further toward the ocean you go, the more creatures you are likely to see. Sea stars love to cling to the side of rocks where the waves are still a bit rough. You will probably see sea lions on the rocks and beach, and often times the south side of the beach is closed for their use.

After exploring the tide pools, you can continue your hike down the south side of the beach (if it's not closed) to pillar point. If the beach is closed you will have to go back to the parking lot and take the trail across the road that leads toward a forest (it starts with crossing a bridge). The trail will wind up the cliff briefly and reward you will a bird's eye view of the tide pools before it cuts into a grove of cypress trees. Marvel at the straight lines and gnarly branches that seem like something out of a horror movie, before you continue your hike. The trail meanders along the cliff toward the Moss Beach Distillery. There will be a set of stairs with ocean access just before you reach the Distillery. Head down these stairs to the ocean to enjoy a picnic lunch or just lounge by the water.

When you're ready to continue your hike, continue south on the beach past the Distillery. Keep going toward Pillar Point (a piece of land jutting out into the ocean with a structure that looks like a giant golf ball on a tee). Be sure to enjoy the rock-hopping and tide pools along the way! Once you get close to Pillar Point you will see trails up the cliffs on the left. Scramble up the cliff and continue back the way you came, this time by way of the cliff trail. Don't forget to look behind you at the stunning views!

When the trail ends, continue on the road past the houses until you reach the Moss Beach Distillery. This is where you can grab a bite to eat and read about the legend of the Blue Lady, while you enjoy their back deck (which is dog friendly).  Make sure to arrive well before sunset if you want a seat on the deck next to one of their cozy fires (blankets provided)!

Sit back, relax, and soak in the views and ocean air as you wind down from a great day!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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