2.1 mile out and back at an old ranch.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This is a very easy 2.1 mile out and back hike, with about 130 feet
in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is around 225 feet. The high point
for the featured hike is just 313 feet.
A few pockets of shade, otherwise completely exposed.
Dirt fire road.
Nice any time.
From the junction of CA 1 and CA 92 in San Mateo County, drive south 1.2
miles, then turn east onto Higgins Canyon Road (formerly Higgins-Purisima
Road). Drive about 1.5 miles to the park entrance on the left side
of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, restaurants, and gas in Half Moon Bay. No camping.
Parking for about 15 cars. No entrance or parking fees. There is a map on
the information signboard, but none to take with you. One wheelchair-accessible
portable toilet is located 0.12 mile down the trail; another near a picnic
table about 0.90 mile along the trail. No drinking water. There is one designated
handicapped parking spot, and the trail is wheelchair accessible. There
is no direct public transportation to the park
The sole trail at the park is multi-use until the barn, then it becomes
hiking-only. Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Dogs are not permitted.
The Official Story:
Burleigh Murray page.
Half Moon Bay State Beach Ranger Station 650-726-8819
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the park.
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) is a
great guide (available from Pease
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and park
this book from Amazon.com).
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple
map and park descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
View photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
have a Bay Area Ridge Trail and a Bay Trail. How about another trail that would loop around San Francisco; another connected
network of paths with the letter B in the name? I propose the Bay
Area Barn Trail, long stretches of trail with a pretty barn to look at
every 50 miles or so. And Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park is a shoo-in
The park, of about 1300 acres, was donated
by the Murray family to the state in 1979. The Murrays had used the land
as a dairy ranch for over a century, and rusting farm equipment still
sits idly near the large old barn. It's an unusual state park, with
practically nothing in the way of facilities, and no entrance or parking
fees. A broad dirt road serves as a trail for the mile from the parking
lot to the barn, then a small, poorly-maintained trail breaks off and heads east, diminishing in quality until it runs out of steam altogether
on its way up the hill. Eventually it is hoped that a real trail
will wind all the way up to Skyline Boulevard, and Burleigh Murray may
rival Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve for access from the
flat farmland near Half Moon Bay to the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Until then the main highlights are the barn and the surprising quiet of
the valley. The park's small size and tame nature make it attractive to
families and older folks.
Years of ranching have disturbed the vegetation,
resulting in a mixture of exotic vegetation and native plants. Poison
oak and stinging nettles are extensive, but there's also lots of attractive
twinberry and edible blackberries and thimbleberries. Eucalyptus and alder are the dominant tree. Spring
wildflowers lean toward the weedy side, with plenty of thistles and unglamorous
blooms such as salisfy, birdsfoot lotus, and bellardia.
At the trailhead, the information signboard
recaps the history of the park, and indicates the route to the barn,
a wide fire road through the valley. Practically flat, the trail (called
Ranch Road on the map) spends most of its time running along Mills Creek. Once
through a small meadow, the slope on the right side of the trail becomes
a tangle of plants, including blackberries, poison oak, ceanothus, stinging
nettles, and twinberry. In spring, you might see beeplant and yellow
lupine. On the left side of the trail fennel, cow parsnip, and coyote
brush give way to red
alders and willows lining the creek, and past that, rolling hills of grassland
and chaparral. Sporadic groves of large eucalyptus trees tower above
the trail. On breezy days they creak in the wind like a bunch of haunted
house soundtracks. Poison oak is one of the dominate understory plants,
climbing up trunks of the trees and holding court in large clumps along
the creek. Several bridges cross over Mills Creek as the trail meanders
through this riparian corridor. Under the shade of the eucalyptus
trees, look for nightshade, creambush, and currant. At 0.90 mile a picnic
bench sits near a portable toilet.
At a bend in the trail a road
breaks off to the northeast, at 0.98 mile. Stay to the left. A
sign on the spur road warns of a firing range ahead. It's every hiker's
dream, right, to stroll to the accompaniment of the stimulating sound of gunfire! According to the map at the trailhead,
the firing range is open to law enforcement officers only, which is a
bit of a conciliation, somehow. The range was quiet when I was there,
but if you are disturbed by the presence of guns and gunfire, you may
want to head back to your car if the range is open on the day of your
visit. Keep to the left on a path as the road continues straight
to the employee residence, cross the bridge, and the barn comes into view
on the left at 1.07 miles.
The trail, such as it is, continues to
the right just past the bridge (there's no sign). Near the barn there
is an information signboard with a map of the grounds in their glory days.
You can walk close to the barn, but you can't go inside (if you've ever
been inside an old barn, you may be glad to stay outside). I love the stone work around here, including the
wall behind the barn. It's a nice, quiet, cool place for lunch (there's
a picnic table). When you've had your fill of the barn, retrace
your steps to the parking area. (Adventurous souls can continue hiking
on the path along Mills Creek, where it curves right just past the final
bridge. When I gave it a try, the path was choked with stinging nettles,
tall grass, and blackberry brambles. This is not a good trail for anyone
phobic of snakes. If you visit and the trail has recently been brushed,
you can hike uphill as far as the water tanks, another 3/4 of a mile or
so. Past that the trail is currently unmaintained.)
Total distance: 2.14 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday,
May 15, 2001