A Long Drive to a Short Hike
Why drive all the way past Half Moon Bay for a short hike?
Well, why not? It begins with an easy, pleasant drive away from heavy traffic along the coast. You can see ocean waves, breathe fresh air, stop at beaches and parks, and enjoy food in Davenport, Costanoa, Pescadero, and Half Moon Bay. To add more variety, you can return home via Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) to see beautiful mountains, forests, and big skies.
Our destination is especially good for families, reluctant day hikers, joggers, and dog walkers. On the way, you can stop at Wilder Ranch, Año Nuevo, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, vegetable farms, and numerous beaches. (My favorite is Bean Hollow.)
When you reach Quarry Park in El Granada, just four miles north of Half Moon Bay, you will find an uncrowded neighborhood playground, several easy to moderate short trails, lots of interesting but invasive plants, and a short walk to a scenic view.
Choose between two trailheads. One to the left (north) of the parking area takes you on the half-mile-long Meadow Trail through a wide grassy meadow to a small pond. It is nice and flat, suitable for scooters, bikes, and small wagons.
The second trailhead just beyond the parking area is the Quarry Trail entrance to the popular 1.3 mile-loop of the Vista Point Trail. It’s an impressive entrance.
The towering eucalyptus trees form a blue-green shaded corridor. Although not noted for their shade, the trees are so tall and densely packed that they block the sun through most of the day. They dominate, crowding out thimbleberry and creambushes, while the understory belongs to ivy, blackberry, and occasional acacia. The trail is wide, but the surface is softened by fallen leaves.
Signs point to the left where the trail takes you to a large open area that was once the quarry floor. At your feet, you can see a rustic mandela formed by rocks. If you look up about 400 feet you should view the wooden platform of an overlook structure.
Walking to the left of the quarry floor takes you up a relatively mild grade. When you reach the top, a wooden boardwalk to the right takes you to the overlook. Two benches provide a rest stop while looking out through the trees to the quarry floor, ocean, Princeton Harbor, and Pillar Point.
The trail continues past a picnic table and another bench. When you reach the next intersection, turn right and walk down a broad road. You may see the playground through the trees. One left turn brings you back to the parking area.
This same trail network includes three out-and-back trails: The 0.9-mile South Ridge Trail, the 1.4-mile Dolphine Fire Road, and the 1-mile Mirada East Fire Road to Highway 1. A .36-mile multi-use trail provides access from Magellan Avenue to Surfers Beach. This coastal trail extends north to Pillar Point, and south to Half Moon Bay State Beach.
The entrance to Quarry Beach is at the intersection of Santa Maria Avenue and Columbus. The address is 1195 Columbus Street, El Granada, 94018. To reach the park from Highway 1, turn right (east) on Coronado Street, and follow the signs. (A GPS may help. El Granada’s road network is like that in Redwood Estates.) Parking is free, but donations are accepted.
If you have more time, go north to nearby Pacifica to see the paved Devil’s Slide Trail, beautifully restored Pedro Point Headlands, friendly short trails of San Pedro Valley County Park, and historic Sanchez Adobe site. While you are on the coast, you might as well enjoy more of it!