Half Moon Bay Travel Guide


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Half Moon Bay Hiking & Nature Walks

Half Moon Bay
Hiking & Nature Walks

Half Moon Bay is home to a number of wonderful areas that are perfect for hiking and nature walks. 

To review our listings of hiking trails and nature walks, please scroll down the page

Half Moon Bay State Parks, Beaches and Nature Preserves

Ano Nuevo State Reserve

New Year's Creek Road, off Hwy 1 Pescadero, CA   650-879-0227

This 4,000 acre Reserve is a major gathering area for northern elephant seals, which may be seen year-around. The males battle for mates on the beaches. The females give birth to their young on the dunes.

Two short hikes/nature walks are available — the Pond Loop Trail and Cove Beach Trail are open year-round and do not require hiking permits.  

Bean Hollow State Beach & Pebble Beach


The beach features fishing, picnicking and beachcombing. Visitors can explore tide pools with anemones, crab, sea urchins and other marine inhabitants. The beach also has a self-guided nature trail perfect for nature walks and short hikes.

Located on the San Mateo Coast, Bean Hollow is 17.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay and three miles south of Pescadero on Hwy. 1.   More >>

Rancho Del Oso at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Hwy 1   831-338-8860

One of our favorite short hikes – around 1 ½ hours!

Located 25 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy. 1, the park has miles of trails, which serves hikers and equestrians, links Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range.
More >>
Maps >>

Big Basin Redwoods State ParkBig Basin State Park

21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA   (831) 338-8860

The park has over 80 miles of trails. Be sure and pick up a map at park headquarters before your hike and take a look at the multimedia kiosk in the Sempervirens Room (next to park headquarters). There you will find great information, photos, and video of some of the most popular trails.

Burleigh Murray State Park

Mills Creek Ranch Rd., Half Moon Bay  (650) 726-8819

Perfect for nature walks/hiking –Take Hwy. 1 south of Half Moon Bay for about 1 mile and turn left  on Higgins Purisima Road.  Travel about 1½ miles to the park's parking on the left side of the road. 

Butano State Park — Campgrounds

1500 Cloverdale Rd., escadero, CA  (650) 879-2040

Perfect for hiking –A 2,200-acre redwood park in the Half Moon Bay Mountains, featuring excellent hiking through the redwood groves. Only three miles from the Pacific coast, the park's trails offer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Año Nuevo islands.

Coastside Trail -- Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail – Half Moon Bay State Beach

95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA  (650) 726-8819

Perfect for nature walks — The Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail runs along the eastern boundary of the four beaches providing close to a three mile stretch to walk, jog or ride bikes. The trail continues north to Pillar Point Harbor.

A horse trail parallels the Coastside Trail from Roosevelt Beach to Francis Beach. While in the state parks, horses are restricted to the designated horse trail and are not permitted on State Beaches. 

Cowell Ranch State Beach

Highway 1, Half Moon Bay  (650) 726-8819

Perfect for nature walks/hiking –Take Hwy. 1 south for a little over 3 miles and park in the park's marked parking lot. 

Gray Whale Cove  – McNee Ranch State Park

1½ miles north of  Montara State Beach.  650-726-8819

Perfect for nature walks/hiking — The one mile trail is mostly flat, and is visually spectacular with ocean and mountain views. During the spring, you can also enjoy one of the best location for spring flowers such as Douglas irises, hollyhocks and buttercups.

Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve 

Hwy 1, 16 miles south of Half Moon Bay  (650) 879-2170

Perfect for nature walks — Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is a popular spot for bird watchers and other naturalists. The Reserve is a refuge for blue heron, kites, deer, raccoons, foxes and skunks.

As one of the most important remaining wetlands on the California Coast,  each year thousands of birds rest and feed at the preserve — providing a wonderful opportunity to watch almost 200 species of birds. 

The best bird watching times are late fall and early spring.  If you are interested, the Audubon Society offers walking tours. 

Pillar Point MarshPillar Point Marsh  (Fitzgerald Marine Reserve)

(650) 728-3584 

Perfect for nature walks — This unique marsh may be small, but it is an important habitat for local and migrating birds.  Bird watchers at Pillar Point Marsh have sighted nearly 20% of all North American bird species.  The other amazing fact about this marsh is it is fed by both fresh and salt water.   

Portola Redwoods State ParkPortola Redwoods State Park


Perfect for hiking –The park has a rugged, natural basin forested with coast redwoods, Douglas fir and live oak. Eighteen miles of trails crisscross the canyon and its two streams, Peters Creek and Pescadero Creek. 

Purissima Creek Redwoods Open Space PreservePurissima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

Half Moon Bay, CA  (650) 949-5500

Perfect for hiking — The 3,120-acre preserve is located on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Half Moon Bay. The preserve was established with a gift of $2 million from the Save-the-Redwoods League.

The centerpiece of the Preserve is Purisima Creek Canyon, with its towering redwoods, creek, ferns, berries, and wildflowers. Coastal scrub, tanoak, madrone, and Douglas fir border the canyon. The coast and Half Moon Bay are visible from the northern part of the preserve.   

What's on Tap
this Fall


Half Moon Bay Fall Festivals & Events:

Half Moon Bay Christmas Tree Farm Locations – Late Nov & Dec.  Multiple locations for choose and cut Christmas trees are listed.

Christmas and Winter Holiday Inspired Events and Activities.  Explore a list of holiday inspired events in and around Half Moon Bay 

Whale Watching – Dec. through May. Half Moon Bay (415) 474-3385.

Elephant Seal Watching – December is breeding season. Año Nuevo State Reserve has a large colony of northern elephant seals that assemble there each winter.


For more event information, click on our Festivals & Events page for Half Moon Bay.


Top Fall Attractions in Half Moon Bay:

Fall is a Great Time to Visit the Coast!

Early Fall is generally some of the best weather on the coast. Plan a visit with your family or an escape for a romantic weekend.

Half Moon Bay Fishing 

Fishing is a big draw. Check out our fishing page for more info.

Open Spaces

Open space, and beaches are Half Moon Bay's true claim to fame. 

Whale Watching – Whale Watching December through May

Half Moon Bay 415 474-3385


For more information on local attractions, click on the Half Moon Bay Attractions or Recreational Activities.



The Region's Fall Advisories:

Traffic Conditions. During the pumpkin season, traffic in to and out of Half Moon Bay can be extremely challenging – especially during the Art & Pumpkin Festival weekend. It's a good idea to plan ahead and arrive early and leave late. Go to www.caltrans.com to learn about road conditions. 

Yes, it's still water, water, water! California is undergoing an extreme drought. If you are planning a lake vacation be sure to check about water levels. That rafting trip, fishing, or skiing can be impacted.

EXTREME fire danger. The drought has created a very dangerous combination of dry vegetation and no moisture in the air to help contain any fire. Please use extreme caution during your trip.