Escape to Montara Mountain – San Mateo County

Montara Mountain - San Mateo County | Smiling in Sonoma

Sometimes we need to escape reality to deal with reality. The hubs and I have been escaping to beautiful places since we have moved to the North Bay but now more than ever do we need to unplug and get out and enjoy nature.

Montara Mountain is a wonderfully diverse hike from shady eucalyptus to strong Montara Manzanitas with ocean views and windswept hills and back down switchbacks to find a seasonal 3-tier waterfall. Oh and 2 old truck wrecks rusting away along the fire road at the top.

There’s plenty of parking at the start of the trail with a visitor center and flushing toilets. Just behind the restrooms the trail head for Montara Mountain begins with gentle switchbacks. This is where our conversations about our next adventures usually start. The “what if we were to move to____” or “we need to rent a floating house to see if we like it” are discussed along the way. We pause at the peek-a-boo views of Pacifica down below and Mt Tam in the distance. We then start chatting about how lucky we are to live in a place with so many beautiful places to explore so close by!

You’ll hit a T junction and be asked to make the decision to head straight to the waterfall or keep going up to the peak at 1,898 feet. Head for the peak!! The trail continues on a nice grade with switchbacks and beautiful views once you get out of the eucalyptus. Every chance you get look around and see which landmarks are visible. The day we went it was a clear winter day with some haze over the city but we could see Point Reyes, Mt Tam, Sutro Tower, Mt Diablo and south to Half Moon Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The views were truly spectacular!

The fire road was steep so I recommend lots of breaks to take in the amazing views you get to see. Soon the top of the mountain comes into view with the radio tower on top. I know I said we unplug on hikes but I also like to share the beauty on Instagram Stories and I had full bars up at the top! Of course it would also be nice if there were an emergency.

At the top we explored a rusty truck wreckage and soaked in the 360 degree views. We then headed back down and checked out the other peak and rusty truck remains and continued on the fire road back down.

Trace your steps back to the T junction and head toward Brooks Falls. If you want to see the falls in action, I recommend going just after a good rain to get the full effect. They are seasonal and you don’t get to experience them up close. The trail becomes shaded and blocked from the winds coming off the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for the waterfall (hint, it flows down from the canyon you will see above you). At the viewing bench you can hear other creeks down below you and see the 3 tier waterfall in the distance. It’s a wonderful spot to just sit and calm your mind.

As you keep heading down you walk through a thick eucalyptus forest and begin to see some redwoods as you reach Brooks Creek. Follow the creek back to the parking lot.

We really enjoyed the diversity of this hike from the trees and plants to the views you get to see. Still blows our minds that we have the city so close and surrounded by so much green space.

Hike details:

Parking $6, 8 miles, 1,616 ft elevation gain, no dogs on the county part of the hike but ok on the state part (there is another way to get to the top from the fire road but you miss the waterfalls), flushing toilets in the parking lot, mix of shade and sun, probably great all year but winter is good for views – spring for wildflowers – summer for shade and ocean breeze.


2 Comment

  1. I love those hikes that come around a hill and boom! The world opens to the ocean. Gorgeous!

    1. Thank you! It was definitely one of those hikes 🙂

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