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This segment of the California Coastal Trail (also known as the Half Moon Bay State Park's Coastside Trail) runs parallel to the Pacific Coast along what used to be the Ocean Shore Railroad. The railroad itself was in operation for just 14 years before it was driven out of business in the early 1920s by the automobile. However, the railroad had a tremendous effect on the Northern California coastline. It opened the area to agriculture, created new communities along the shoreline and made the coastal beaches prime tourist destinations.
The Coastside Trail is truly a destination trail. It offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, access to several beaches and excellent nature viewing. Bird watching is quite good and a popular activity here. Red-tailed hawks, blue herons and red-winged blackbirds are spotted frequently, and large hawks can often be seen perched on benches and the trail's split-rail fence. Half Moon Bay State Beach is also home of the world-famous Mavericks, a surfing spot near Pillar Point that's visible from the trail. In winter, surfers can ride waves up to 80 feet high here.
You can park at the Half Moon Bay State Beach Visitor Center for a fee and pick up the trail here. Heading north you follow the paved trail for about 2 miles in total. On your left is the coastline and on your right, the equestrian trail. Beyond this trail are views of gorgeous beachfront properties. A mile into your walk, you reach another parking lot with access to Venice Beach. The rail-trail continues for about another mile then merges into Mirada Road. If you continue walking on Mirada Road for a few minutes, you will end up at the Miramar Beach Restaurant, a bar and restaurant that overlooks the ocean. This is a great place to watch the sunset; the Miramar even posts a daily sunset schedule on its website.
Heading south from the visitor center, the Pacific Ocean is on your right and the equestrian trail on your left. Beyond this horse trail are open, green fields. The trail hugs the bluff's edge here. As you head south, you see a landscape of wind-sculpted trees. It is typically windy along the bluff, so be sure to bring a jacket for this leg of the trail.
The paved rail-trail officially ends about 1 mile in. In the Wavecrest Open Space the trail surface switches to narrow dirt track. You can continue walking south along the cliff's edge on the path through the open space to the Ritz-Carlton.
To reach the Half Moon Bay State Beach visitor center, take State Route 1 and turn on Kelly Avenue toward the coast. The visitor center is at the end of Kelly Avenue. Park in the visitor center parking lot. There is no parking at the endpoints.
Additional parking is available at Venice Beach, at the end of Venice Boulevard off SR 1, and Dunes Beach, at the end of Young Avenue off SR 1.
You can also park in the coastal access lot at Miramontes Point close to the Ritz-Carlton for free, but note that the lot is quite small - it only holds about 15 cars - and can fill up on weekends.
Now named the California Coastal Trail, it has been extended through the Half Moon Bay golf links and is now almost 9 and a half miles.Overall it's in very good shape. It could use a little better signage. Great Ocean views with beach access.
We took our guests from Connecticut to Half Moon Bay, stopped at Bikeworks on Kelly Avenue to rent very nice bicycles at a reasonable price, and pedaled over to the trail. Perfect trail for easy cycling - mostly paved, level, great views, interesting bridges, and easy access to restaurants; Sam's Chowder House and Miramar Beach Restaurant are a couple. Trail is long enough to get a pleasant ride - not too long. Bring a windbreaker as the wind can be pretty strong off the ocean.
I live in Southern Oregon and visit Half Moon Bay from time to time. The coastal trail from HMB to Princeton now includes a fabulous new bridge. This 6 mile portion of the coastal trail is absolutely gorgeous. It is exceedingly well maintained. Along the way you will meet young families with children, seniors, and visitors from around the world. Be sure to use your bike's bell and go slowly around walkers. I learned that some of the international visitors do not understand "on your left"
The round trip ride from HMB to Princeton is about 13 miles and can be easily completed in an hour and a half. There are many lovely state parks with picnic tables and ocean views so pack a snack or lunch and relax. You'll be creating a lifelong memory.
We parked at the Poplar beach parking lot and headed north figuring this would give us the most amount of paved walking route for the strollers. The bridge is out over Pilarcitos creek, there is a "detour" but it routes you out to Hwy 1 and back down Venice rd. We opted just to head back and try our luck south of Seymore bridge, again nice views, we even saw a couple whales, this would be a great walk if you could take the bridge!
Our weather wasn't good -- foggy and drizzly -- but it was a nice, flat, paved, quiet (on a weekday) 3.5 mile path along the ocean. We jogged it and it was perfect distance and not too strenuous, but it would be a great family bike ride from end to end. Rangers were doing maintenance to keep it nice - thank you! Also, we spotted MANY adorable tiny bunnies along the way.
This is a trail that you might get less exercise on because you want to stop every few minutes to take pictures!
I went Friday and can't wait to get back this weekend and take my wife who doesn't enjoy long complicated rides. I parked at the visitor's center at the end of Kelley Ave ($10 parking fee). When I arrived Friday morning it was cold so I went into the restrooms at the park and changed into jeans and long sleeve shirt, fortunately having anticipated it might be cold enough for these.
I first took the trail north and it was a very easy ride. As you head up the trail it turns into Mirada Road which is a nice quiet street that is perfectly safe, then you pass the Miramar Restaurant and the road ends. When you pass Miramar then turn right on Magellan and the trail picks back up on your left fairly quickly. There are some sections that aren't right on the coast but enough that are that make the ride worth it. I went as far as the Half Moon Bay Airport though I went off the trail to get there so I could get some pictures of the planes. The trail is very easy to ride, mostly paved and level to slight elevation. When I returned back to the starting point I went south and ended up at the end of the trail at the Ritz Carlton. I'm not sure if I accidentally went off the trail or not but I ended up on a dirt trail with pretty deep ruts at some point but they were fine for my bike and tires. It was really fun but I wouldn't take most people on there unless they are more into the mountain bike type trails. It's also possible I went off the main trail for some point as my Strava tracker shows me taking different routes. Either way it was awesome. At some point it went back to paved trails and then the Ritz which was not as nice because of all the golf carts and drivers who seemed oblivious to bikers and pedestrians.
The trail is closer to the ocean when riding south from the visitors center than north and it's so awesome just hearing the sound of the waves crashing with a nice cool breeze. I can't wait to get back.
We like to take a slow ride on weekends and then go have brunch in Half Moon Bay. There are fewer pedestrians and dog owners than many of the trailes that I ride; they tend to cross the trail to walk on the beach. The ride can be extended to the south as far as the country club if you don't mind getting off road. It is an easy section with lots of wild life. There is an ocean influence so be prepared for chilly mornings and fog. The only downside is the traffic getting into Half Moon Bay. Get there early on summer weekends.
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