We finally had gorgeous, “I can’t believe this is January!” weather this past weekend and we couldn’t get out the door fast enough to enjoy the outdoors by doing some hiking just south of San Francisco. We were going to meet up with some friends on Sunday, so it was fortuitous that the weather was perfect for an outdoor day with hiking friends. My friend actually made the suggestion to do a hike at San Pedro Valley County Park in Pacifica, a city just south of San Francisco, and I’m so glad he did because this county park wasn’t even on my radar.
So, without having done much research about the park, but excited to see our friends and explore somewhere new, we pulled into the parking lot of San Pedro Valley Park at around 11 am. It looked promising, the park grounds were well maintained (clean bathrooms) and the signs for the hikes were clearly marked, all with greenery bursting from every corner thanks to the recent rains.
We started our hike on Brooks Creek Trail, next to the yellow hydrant, curving behind the restrooms and shortly passed the picnic area next to the trail.
The hike opened up into a valley where you see Brooks Falls in the distance. We were able to view Brooks Falls from the overlook point, but there are no trails that take you directly to the falls. I think this waterfall is best viewed from the overlook anyway because of its height. You have to see the whole length to appreciate it otherwise seeing it only in small segments is not as impressive. This waterfall is beautiful when you see it in person, the moving cascade of water against the greenery of the mountains, all in an open valley of the Montara Mountains. However, the water stream is thin, and makes me wonder what the waterfalls are like during the summer and not right after recent rains. So, keep in mind this waterfall could be seasonal if you’re planning a hike.
Next came the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastal cities. The intersection of the Brooks Creek Trail and the Montara Mountain Trail is very popular with hikers admiring the view on a perfectly placed bench.
At this point, you could hike back down to the parking lot on the Montara Mountain Trail for a short and sweet 2.3 mile hike or proceed to go upwards for a bit more of a workout. We decided to continue upward on the Montara Mountain Trail to the Montara Mountain Road at least to make it about a 5 mile round trip hike. Up until now, we had shed all our layers feeling the warmth in the wind-protected valley, but now that we were on the ocean side, it got very chilly and we were glad we had our layers to put back on.
The hike upward was similar all the way up with ocean views from different angles. It is definitely worth stopping at the overlook point and get a 360º view of your surroundings.
If I were to do this hike again, I would skip the lower part of Montara Mountain Trail (below the Brooks Creek Trail intersection) and return on Brooks Creek Trail instead. There is nothing bad about the Montara Mountain Trail, but there is nothing spectacular about it either. I just enjoyed hiking the Brooks Creek Trail much more. Also, I would pack a lunch and extend the hike to reach the Montara Mountain North Peak (this would make it about a 7 mile round trip hike).
My feeling of the day was one of surprise at how amazing this place was and how I hadn’t even heard about this place during all the time I’ve lived in the Bay Area. What rock have I been living under? There were definitely people on the trail, but it never felt crowded. The hike that we did has everything that I look for in a hike: sweeping views, gradual climb for a workout, and points of interests (a waterfall definitely works!). After our morning hike, it was just 10 minutes to civilization and a hot meal. Pacifica has many restaurants to choose from and my daughter especially enjoyed indulging in a Strawberry Nutella crepe (with ice cream for crying out loud) at the High Tide Restaurant Cafe and Creperie.
After lunch we stopped at the Devil’s Slide (south) area and checked out the views. After seeing the ocean from far away, we wanted to get a closer look. I don’t think I can ever, ever tire of looking at the ocean. This day the ocean showed us it’s calm, shimmery side. The hike along the old section of highway will have to be for another time, but the views from the parking lot was exactly what we needed. Even with all the craziness that is happening in the world around us, the ocean has the power to soothe and calm.
So, when you’re looking for something to do on the next sunny Bay Area weekend (I know… just be patient, it will surely come), keep the hike at San Pedro Valley County park in mind.