We parked in the Gray Whale Cove parking lot (McNee Ranch State Park) and took the Gray Whale Cove Trail until it intersected with Old San Pedro Road. From there, we followed 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California’s directions up the once-paved road to a fire road and, finally, up the north peak of Mount Montara. The peak is reputed to have a 360-degree view, but we managed to time our summit to coincide with thick clouds. (This is, after all, the northern California coast.)
Much of the climb is accomplished between miles 1.6 and 1.9. It is the longest third of a mile I’ve ever hiked. I felt especially out of shape when a man running up the hill passed me. If you are so inclined, there are organized runs up this mountain. For the insane. Walking without a stop was strenuous enough for me!
A word of warning: this shrubbery bordering the trail is thick with poison oak. Old San Pedro Road is wide enough to avoid the oily leaves, but a shortcut we took to return to Gray Whale Cove Trail had me glad I wore long pants and clutching my naked hands to my chest. If you venture onto a side trail or out into the wild for a bathroom break, BEWARE! (I have an absolute horror of poison oak after getting my first dose on the Feather Falls trail last week.)
Other than poison oak, the flora is a delight. We saw many wildflowers in bloom and I enjoyed the transition of species as we gained elevation. Currently blooming: poppy, lupine, currant, hemlock, thimbleberry, solomon’s seal, manzanita and others.
After the hike, it’s time to get personal with the gray-green waves, glittering foam, and silvery beaches you’ve been admiring from the trail for the past four hours. Gray Whale Cove beach is just across the street from where we parked. It has a reputation as a nude beach and does not allow dogs. The latter was a deal breaker for us, so we drove down the road about half a mile to Montara Beach for some frisbee fun. (Montara Beach does allow dogs, but requires them to be on a leash. I won’t say we broke the law, but I’ll let you imagine how much fun frisbee would be if your partner is connected to you by a six foot lead.)
I’ve been hesitant to explore hikes in the coastal region south of San Francisco because of potential traffic issues and likely heavy use. As long as we arrive early (we began our hike at 7 a.m and were back to the car by 10), both objections seem to be manageable.
Source: Soares, John R. and Soares, Marc J. "North Peak Montara Mountain." 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California. 3rd ed. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 2008. Print.
Length: 6 miles
Water: No water, other than a few puddles, on this trail.
Use: Moderate. I think the steep grade keeps use lower than that of Gray Whale Cove Trail. (Gray Whale Cove Trail use is heavy.)
Differences from published description: None.
Jasper’s rating: 4.5 paws out of 5.
Sporty Sunday is a recurring feature in which I share my fitness routine and offer and solicit advice. While this content might seem a little out of place in an outfit diary, a healthy, strong body is the foundation of my wardrobe. I hope to inspire my readers to be fit as well as stylish!