July 3, 2010

McNee Ranch State Park Hike

We took advantage of the long holiday weekend to go to the coast and do some hiking. The first stop was to hike to the summit of Montara Mountain in McNee Ranch State Park in San Mateo County. McNee is located eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway One. There are a few parking areas for the park. The closest one is small and fills up early, fitting maybe five cars. We parked at a larger lot a few hundred feet south of the trail head and walked along the road to the start of the trail. There is no parking or entrance fee, but also no maps at the trail head. We started our hike on the partially paved fire road on the other side of the yellow gate. Just over a quarter of a mile up the trail we came across a fork that if taken left will lead to a picnic area and portable toilet. For this hike we continued straight. The first half mile or so was mostly shaded which proved to be much welcomed at the end of the hike. It wasn't long before we got some great views of the coast. We were very lucky that there wasn't much fog that day and were able to really enjoy the views and get great pictures. As we followed the trail signs to the summit we crossed several benches where you could stop to marvel at the coast and other views. The trail and the temperature both began to climb as we continued on. Soon we had a good view of Devil's Slide which is currently under construction. This area has been closed to landslides in the past and there is a new tunnel being constructed that should be completed next year. As we got closer to the summit we came across a trail that leads to San Pedro Valley County Park and were quickly passed by a few runners participating in a Pacific Coast Trail Race. You can take this trail to view Brooks Falls in San Pedro Valley County Park, we chose not to on this trip. After about four miles we reached the North Peak of Montara Mountain and had a great 360 degree view of the surrounding area. We saw Mt. Tamalpais and the city of Pacifica to the north, Mt. Diablo to the east, the coastline to the west and the Santa Cruz mountains to the south. There was a bit more fog obscuring the view up at the summit than at lower elevations but it was still breathtaking. The area was completely exposed at the top without much of a place to take a break so after snapping some shots we headed back down the trail and snacked on the way. Again the runners passed us on their way back down the trail. We saw some great flowers and wildlife along the way, mostly birds and lizards. The trail was a bit more busy on the way down and since most of it is multi-use, we did see some mountain bikers, dogs and horses. Although mesmerized by the great coastal views on the way down the trail, we couldn't seem to get to the shade quick enough. It took us about 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the 8 mile hike up and and down the summit of Montara Mountain with about a 1800 foot elevation change. Great hike with great views but we were lucky that the fog stayed away.