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Montara Mountain North & Middle Peaks Loop

Half Moon Bay, California

based on 4 reviews



7.22 miles

Elevation Gain

1929 ft

Route Type



Added by Rachel Davidson

Montara Mountain located in San Mateo County, California, is a great opportunity to get some peak views of the Bay Area while putting your calves through quite a workout.

NOTE: as of 2019, North Peak has been fenced off around the installation of a radio tower and weather station. Additionally, the summit has been found to be a habitat for the endangered San Bruno elfin butterfly.

The Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a popular seaside trail that’s just 20 minutes south of San Francisco. Leaving the city using I-280, take the Highway 1 exit for just about 10 miles to one of the northernmost trail entrances. There are actually four different routes you can take up to the peak of Montara Mountain, depending on which trailhead you choose to park at. Note, these are one-way distances, double this length to calculate your total distance:

  • 3.5 miles from San Pedro Valley County Park trailhead.
  • 3.9 miles from McNee Ranch trailhead.
  • 4.1 miles from Farralone Cutoff, Montara.

Leaving from Gray Whale Cove, the first quarter-mile of the hike climbs upwards and then slopes out into a flat trail that continues around the hills. This trail makes for a very popular and crowded place for day hikers, trail runners, and cyclists.

Follow the path south, until it turns inward. Within a half mile, the trail will fork into two directions: A steep upward slope to your left (an unofficial “shortcut” that will take 1.5 miles off), or continuing to the right, where the trail makes a slow, windy ascent through some shade on a fire road. On the fire road, you're able to look ahead a few miles and about 2,000 vertical feet to the top of Montara Mountain.

At the top of a forested section, the fire road runs into the end of the shortcut before continuing up incredibly steep, exposed, dusty slopes. There’s no shade for the last few miles here, so you’ll want to bring lots of sun protection. 

The dusty, rocky trail continues up a few more miles to the summit. All along the way are cutoffs to the other trails I listed above, and you'll see plenty of other hikers and runners who all join up at the top from these different directions.

Just before the last stretch to North Peak, you'll see a turn-off to your left on the GPX track -- this takes you to Middle Peak. From Middle Peak, you’ll enjoy valley views as well as a stretched-out look at Pacifica and its popular beaches. If you have a little more in you, you can make the last trek up toward North Peak, but you won't be able to officially get to the top as it's fenced off -- but good for you for getting the extra steps! 

Since this was a pretty grueling incline without any place to hide from the sun, I promise you’ll enjoy the way down much more than the ascent!

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Montara Mountain North & Middle Peaks Loop Reviews

From San Francisco we went down highway 1, past Pacifica, and Devil's Slide, then stopped to the side at the sign Montara State Beach. From there we followed the steep trail adjacent to it and made it up the fire road all the way to the top in about 2 hours. Along the way are beautiful views of Pacifica, Daly City, even San Francisco and a little bit of the Golden Gate Bridge. To the East are views of San Bruno, Millbrae, Oakland and in the far distance, a silhouette of Mount Diablo

If you can get on the trails before the fog rolls in this is a beautiful hike!

It can get socked in with fog in the Spring / Summer, removing the beautiful views. Gets rather steep at points, but makes for a good workout. Saw many people on the trail in the afternoon, looked like a number of SFers escaping the city for the day. Still a great way to spend half a Saturday.

This is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Bay Area. Get there at sunrise, it gets hot some days.

Good steep trails in the beginning to the get lungs going. You get a pretty decent view of both the bay area and half moon bay from the top.

Leave No Trace

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


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