This is one of the Best Hikes in the Bay Area in my book. But go EARLY to avoid the mountain bikers.
The Hike is called the Montara Mountain North Peak hike, along the North Peak Access Road. The trail is located within the McNee Ranch, which located within the Montara State Beach. There are a couple different ways to start this hike, the first option is the Limited Parking area located on the East side of Highway 1, after the Montara Beach main parking area. The second parking lot to the north on Highway 1 is bigger and has beach access.
The trail is well marked, and it starts right from the Highway, leading past a Rangers Residence. The North Peak Access Trail is more of a dirt road for the first section. This is an all purpose trail with Bikes, dogs and horses allowed. After passing the Ranger's house, the trail starts up -- and it is fairly steep.
On the way up there are a couple different trails to get some great views of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, there is a connection trail (the Grey Whale Cove trail) that leads to the larger parking lot.
There are some wildflowers and wildlife along the way, but this hikes biggest asset is the View! The view was great since this was a fogless day the day after a Spring storm. This area is very prone to fog during the summer/early fall.
On the way up to the top you get views of Pacifica, San Francisco and the Marin Headlands. You can even see the Golden Gate Bridge from a number of stops along the way.
The Trail goes from Dirt to pavement to rock cut out of the mountain. Its a very interesting trail surface near the top.
At the top, you can access some great views from the San Francisco Watershed gate.
For the best view, head up to the Communication Tower access road (currently covered in Black gravel). Around the highest tower, you will find a small unmarked path leading to a clearing at the very top of the North Peak. Here you have 360 views of the Bay Area and the Pacific Coast. On this day I could see Mt Diablo, The Santa Cruz Mountains and all the way to Mount Tam to the north.
On a clear day you can see down the Pacific Coast toward Santa Cruz.
The way down is very easy, since its almost 99% down hill. This was a very enjoyable hike and had the best views of any hike I have done.
Also - I highly recommend the book Peninsula Trails by Jean Rusmore (Wilderness Press) -- The Fourth edition is very up to date.
View Larger Map
Area - McNee Ranch - Montara State Park
Trail - North Peak Access Road
Length - 7.8 miles out and back - Difficult/Moderate Hike (1800' Elevation gain!)
Trail - Out and Back-style, dirt trail/paved road, some stops along the way. Very well marked and maintained.
Dogs - Some
Bikes - Yes
View - This trail is ALL Views
Getting There - Google Map North of Montara on Highway 1
Fee- None, free parking (two parking lots)
Weather - Only do this hike on a CLEAR day
Other Trails - there are other trails within this park. The Montara State Beach is located on the west side of the highway.