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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.
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