The best hikes are not always easy, but if you have to search more, drive farther, and step out of your comfort zone, it may be worth it. This was one of those hikes.
Although Pedro Point Headlands is virtually unknown, my daughter April forwarded an Internet story that described it as one of the best places to hike in the Bay Area. This public preserve is not identified by any signs. The main entry point is a simple green gate, and parking is risky with only enough space for two or three cars next to busy Highway 1.
To reach that parking space or the nearby and safer northern parking lot for the Devil’s Slide Trail, you must drive north through the Devil’s Slide Tunnel and over the bridge, and then make a U-turn to return south on Highway 1. Look for the gate, but it is facing south, so you are almost past it before you turn your car into the roadside dirt parking. If you go by the gate, you can turn in to the popular Devil’s Slide parking lot. If you are lucky you may find a space. If you do, you can follow a trail from the lot into the headlands.
Once in the preserve, you can follow one of two trails (Arroyo and South Ridge) that form a loop. On the right, the narrow and rough Arroyo Trail takes you through a forest of giant eucalyptus trees, tall bushes, colorful poison oak, and wild grasses. You walk through a tunnel-like profusion of greenery that includes coyote bush, California sage, ceanothus, sticky monkeyflower, lizard tail, and coffeeberry. It looks wild, unkempt, and primeval.
Up on the ridge, the trail and views are wider. On a clear day you can see the waves crashing on rocky, inaccessible beaches. If you bear right, you should find the Judy Johnson Overlook. Further north, you can claim Pedro Summit and the end of the trail. They say you can look north to see the red towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, but on my hike, big billowy clouds turned into dense fog. In a matter of minutes, the temperature dropped from the eighties to the fifties. It was cold and dark but mystical.
While you are at Pedro Point, consider walking the Devil’s Slide Trail. This paved 1.3-mile trail is shorter and easier, and is open to walkers, runners, bicyclists, equestrians, and dogs on leash.
Yes, the long drive up Highway 1 to Pacifica was worth it, but I’ll have to return to see some of the views I missed. This is a preserve worth exploring.