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Distance: 7.0 miles
Elevation change: 1,870 feet
Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Season: This hike is accessible and enjoyable all year, but spring is the best time to see the wildflower blooms.
Getting there: The trailhead is five miles south of Pacifica and 8.7 miles north of Half Moon Bay, right off of Hwy 1.
Parking lot address: Click here
Hike Description: Montara Mountain is part of McNee Ranch State Park, a large expanse of open space connected to POST-protected Rancho Corral de Tierra just north of Half Moon Bay. There are many great trails to choose from in this area – on my search for great views, a tough climb and wildflowers in bloom, I decided to try the Montara Mountain North Peak Trail for a wildflower hike.
This trail starts at the McNee Ranch Top of Mountain Trailhead. You can park right in front of the trailhead if there’s space – if not, there’s plenty more room a few minutes’ walk down the road at the Montara State Beach parking lot.
The trail starts on the North Peak Access Road, a wide, compacted dirt road that you follow up the mountain for the first several miles. This trail is also open to dogs and cyclists, so be aware around corners! The first 1.5 miles is a slow, winding climb up the Access Road, with patches of wildflowers along each side of the trail. We spotted California poppies, blue eyed grass, indian paintbrush, hound’s tongue and sky lupine. This is the perfect wildflower hike for searching for as many different colors as you can find!
Of course, I came for the views almost as much as the flowers! To reach the North Peak of Montara Mountain, continue to follow the path markers indicating Pacifica and Top of Mountain until the road diverges into two trails. To the left is the Pedro Mountain Rd. Trail, to the right you continue on the North Peak Access Road.
After another 1.5 miles, the intersection of the Access Road and the Montara Mountain Trail is a great place to stop for a snack break and take in the views. To the north, you can see San Francisco, and to the south you can see Half Moon Bay and iconic Pillar Point. Continue along the trail until it ends near a clearing with a large tower. This is another great spot to stop for a water break and to take in the scenery.
When you’re ready to head back, retrace your steps back down the Access Road path. The rainy winter left its mark in large divots and potholes on some parts in the trail, so be cautious not to trip! On your way down, look across the rolling hills to see other bright patches of wildflowers. See how many you can identify! In fact, we created a great tool to help you spot and name our local wildflowers.
Before you hit the trail, download our wildflower guide here.
McNee Ranch State Park is one of California’s newest parks, located on the San Mateo County coast between Pacifica and Montara. Many of its trails are long-abandoned ranch or county roads. The Park is connected to Rancho Corral de Tierra, a 4,262-acre property protected by POST in 2001. This connected region of open space provides many trail options.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.