Montara Mountain is an easy summit to add to your Bay Area peakbagging list, a fun hike for families and dogs, or a challenging trail run that will leave your calves screaming.

Montara Mountain is an easy summit to add to your Bay Area peakbagging list, a fun hike for families and dogs, or a challenging trail run that will leave your calves screaming.

The Graywhale 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 northern-most 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 Mc Nee Ranch trailhead.
  • 4.1 miles from Farralone Cutoff, Montara.
  • 4.8 miles from Graywhale Cove SB.

Leaving from Graywhale 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 bringlots 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.

At the top, you’ll enjoy valley views as well as a stretched-out look at Pacifica and its popular beaches. 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!

Pack List

  • Lots of water - very exposed, little shade
  • Sun protection - clothes, hat, glasses, sunscreen
  • Running shoes
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RT Distance 9.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 2000 Feet
Activities Running, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Beach
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Groups
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Amazing view

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

beautiful views

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

about 3 years ago

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.


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