Hike Montara Mountain

San Francisco Gray Whale Cove SB

Added by Rachel Davidson

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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Fitness, Hiking, Running

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



9.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2000 Feet



Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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4 days ago

beautiful views

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

4 days ago

over 1 year 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.

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

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

over 1 year ago

over 2 years ago

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.

over 2 years ago

Added by Rachel Davidson

Adventure-driven. Upwards-oriented. I like to take the long way.

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