Blufftop Coastal Park/Half Moon Bay State Beach,
City of Half Moon Bay/California State Parks,
San Mateo County
In brief:
2.8 mile loop along bluffs and beach.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.8 mile loop walk is very easy.

Totally exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Paved trail, dirt trail, and beach.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours or less.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
From CA 1 in San Mateo County, about 1 mile south of the CA 92 junction, turn west onto Poplar. Drive west on Poplar about 0.6 mile, to the parking lot at the end of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3727'18.44"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phones in Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay State Beach has a bluff-top campground for tents and RVs (upgraded in 2004).

Trailhead details:
Parking fees are charged: $2 hour or $10 day. Parking in a paved lot. No maps or drinking water. There are portable toilets and four designated handicapped parking spots (restrooms and drinking water can be found near the campground at the state beach). A paved path is well suited to wheelchairs and strollers. There is no direct public transportation to the trailhead. Half Moon Bay State Beach is within walking distance of SamTrans bus #294. Visit for details. There are several other beach access trailheads along the coast in Half Moon Bay; look for the coastal access signs along CA 1. If you've come to camp at Half Moon Bay State Beach, turn west onto Kelly Avenue, north of Poplar.

Half Moon Bay State Beach hours: 8 a.m. - sunset (gates may be open earlier). Blufftop Coastal Park parking lot hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (standard time)/6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (daylight time). Trails and beach at Blufftop Coastal Park are open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. Half Moon State Beach has paved multi-use paths, dirt multi-use trails, and hiking-only paths. Dogs are not permitted on every trail described below. They are permitted on-leash only on the blufftop trails in both parks. No dogs or horses are permitted on the beach at Half Moon State Beach.

The Official Story:
CSP's Half Moon Bay State Beach page
Half Moon Bay State Beach park office 650-726-8819
City of Half Moon Bay's Parks and Recreation Department office 650-726-8297

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Park brochure (pdf) includes map
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula has a good map of the area, and is helpful in getting there (available from Pease Press).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from

Half Moon Bay beaches in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured walk.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

The blufftop trail stretching from Half Moon Bay to TrailheadMiramar is a wonderful course for walkers who want to be close to the ocean without getting sand in their shoes. More than 3 miles end to end, Coastside Trail offers sweeping seaside views, good bird watching, and easy beach access. Half Moon Bay State Park provides amenities including a campground and restrooms, but you can start a walk from more minor trailheads at the end of a few Half Moon Bay streets.
    Start on either the dirt or paved path heading north (the dirt trail is mostly used by equestrians and is lumpy). The empty field on the right is prime hunting territory for raptors; Coastside Trailon my walk I saw a Cooper's hawk and northern harriers looking for lunch. Views of the coastline are spectacular along the level multi-use trail. A few neighborhood access paths cut across the field at intervals. At 0.75 mile, the trail enters Half Moon Bay State Beach, and swings east, crossing the park access road. Keep walking north on the paved trail as it passes the entrance kiosk and then runs along the campground access road. Once past the developed area of the park, the paved trail returns to a quieter area, with dunes on the left dotted with yellow bush lupine, lizardtail, coyote brush, buckwheat, and sagebrush. At 1.35 miles, you'll reach a junction with a boardwalk on the left, just before a bridge crossing Pilarcitos Creek. If you'd like to Path through dunes at the state parkextend the walk, you can continue north about another 2 miles on the paved trail, which ends at Miramar Beach. Turn left.
    The boardwalk heads west to the beach, but turn left onto a narrow sandy path.
    Traversing loose sand, the tiny path squeezes through dunes where snowy plovers nest, and guidewires protect their habitat. Coyote brush is common, and you might also see yellow sand verbena, yellow bush lupine, lizardtail, wild radish, and mustard. I saw another harrier perched on a little pile of uprooted plants on the left -- they seem to prefer hunting close to the ground. At 1.60 mile the path ends at the park's campfire ring. If you want to return along the bluff, walk south through the campground and pick up the paved trail again, past theWalking south along the beach ranger station. Bear right and descend to the beach.
     After just a few steps through a break in the dunes, you'll emerge on the beach. This broad sandy expanse is popular with people flying kites, beach loving families, and surfers. Turn left and walk south.
     Once past the state park boundary, the beach empties out a bit, particularly on weekdays once summer is over. Piles of bull kelp are commonly strewn about with the occasional driftwood timber. There are little slot canyons worn into the sides of the bluff from water erosion. At 2.71 miles, look to the left for a primitive ramp ascending back to the bluff. Climb back to the bluff top, and you'll be steps away from the parking lot.

Total distance: 2.78 miles
Last walked: Tuesday, October 29, 2002