Cowell Ranch Beach Hike Information

You'd never guess this gem of a coastal landscape exists so near the rush of traffic along Highway 1.

Watch for:

Along the trail look out for Coyote brush, dock, wild radish and mustard. You might also spot pelicans and, in February through May, harbor seals in the restricted beach area immediately to the south of the overlook.


  • Hiking
  • No Dogs
  • No Horses
  • No Fishing
  • No Biking
  • No Camping
  • Not Handicap Accessible
  • No Swimming

Hike map

Download the map here

About Cowell Ranch Beach Trail

The Cowell Ranch Beach trail runs between a private farm property, a sandy beach and a harbor seal preserve. A half-mile walk from a small parking lot along a broad trail leads to jaw-dropping vistas of towering cliffs, curving coastline and surging waves. Honey-colored sands beckon from the foot of steps connecting the cliff-top overlook to the beach.

Directions to the Cowell Ranch Beach Hike

From I-280, take Highway 92 west toward Half Moon Bay. Turn left onto Highway 1 and head south for approximately 3 miles. Turn right at the Cowell Ranch Beach sign to reach the parking lot, marked by a sign.

More about the Cowell Ranch Beach Hike

This 1,270-acre property was protected from development in 1987 when POST acquired it with generous gifts from donors. Partnering with the California Coastal Conservancy, POST transferred the beach to California State Parks and sold the agricultural portions to local farming families with protective easements in place. In July 2011, the ocean overlook became the northern trailhead of the 3-mile-long Cowell-Purisima Trail, another joint project between POST and the Coastal Conservancy.

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