This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail series, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.
From the sweet scents of sycamore forests to unbeatable views of the San Francisco Bay, San Mateo County hosts an assortment of experiences for any hiker looking for an escape from the city. On these beloved hikes, you're never far from the glistening Pacific Ocean.
Below you'll find the following cherished hiking options in San Mateo County.
3 miles, Easy
Locals in Pacifica fought for over twenty years to protect Mori Point from development, and it’s easy to see why they pushed so hard to protect it. Mori Point hosts spectacular views of the ocean from coastal bluffs and serves as a link to Sweeney Ridge, the site of Gaspar de Portola’s discovery of the San Francisco Bay. If driving, park at the southwest corner of Sharp Park to begin your hike through this hard-fought haven of wildlife and inimitable vistas. Visit here for more information.
Purisima Creek and Whittemore Gulch Loop Trail
9 miles, Moderate
If you desire a hike with Redwood awnings, babbling stream crossings, and beautiful ocean views, this loop trail is the one for you! Start off under the shade of Redwoods, and descend into luscious Whittemore Gulch before following Purisima Creek and ascending towards ridge lines where you’ll encounter open skies and peeks of the Pacific. Visit here for more information.
Montara Mountain Trail
7 miles, Difficult
Montara Mountain Trail is an impressive route that features the rare Montara Manzanita, a eucalyptus forest, and remarkable granite rock formations. You’ll encounter some strenuous switchbacks, but will be wholly rewarded with views of the San Francisco Bay. Visit here for more information.
Gray Whale Cove Trail
2.3 miles, easy
As the name suggests, a whale sighting is possible on this gorgeous stretch of coast, but only if you go during the winter migratory season. All year around, however, the trail greets the intrepid hiker with a thick swath of coastal scrub before traversing above the coastline for fresh views of the Pacific. Visit here for more information.