2.7 miles out and back through Pescadero Marsh.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.7 mile out and back hike is very easy, although trail
surfaces can be uneven, and part of this hike is through loose sand.
Mostlly exposed, with some pockets of shade.
Dirt trail and sandy beach.
2 hours or less.
Nice any time, but very colorful in summer.
From CA 1 in San Mateo County, south of Half Moon Bay and CA 84, turn west
into the Pescadero Beach parking lot -- driving south it's the second parking
lot, just after the bridge (if you get to Pescadero Road you've gone too
far). Driving north it's 0.3 mile north of Pescadero 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:
Gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phone a few miles east in Pescadero. Duarte's
is a great choice for a casual lunch (their soups are great), or pick up
a loaf of artichoke bread and picnic fixings at Arcangeli
Grocery. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. 30 spots in a paved lot, with 1 designated
handicapped spot. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access to the marsh.
No drinking water or maps. There is one pit toilet at the parking lot. There
is no public transportation to the preserve.
Hiking only. No dogs on the trail.
The Official Story:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Tom Taber's Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of the
preserve and trails.
101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by
Ann Marie Brown (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and featured hike.
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Marsh drifts east from a typically gorgeous San Mateo
County beach, spreading out from the shores of Pescadero Creek. Three
separate, not contiguous trails depart from four trailheads: one at the
northernmost Pescadero Beach parking lot, one from the middle beach parking
lot, and one from a small dirt lot on Pescadero Road. All the trails are
short, and you could easily take a complete tour through the marsh in
one visit. An alternative is to combine a hike on Sequoia Audubon Trail,
in the middle of the marsh, with a picnic and walk along the beach.
I like to start hikes at the middle Pescadero
Beach parking lot trailhead, which provides convoluted but safe access
to the heart of the marsh, an excellent bird-watching zone. This easy
out-and-back hike nicely combines a trudge through loose sand and
an easy walk through Pescadero Marsh.
Bird-watching at Pescadero Marsh perhaps
reaches its zenith in winter, but spring and summer feature a broad spectrum
of wildflowers, and warm beach-friendly temperatures. When I visited once in
late July there was so much vegetation choking Sequoia Nature Trail that
I had to turn back before the end of the trail.
Start at the south end of the parking
lot. Follow a sign pointing down a short flight of steps to "beach
and marsh access." When you reach CA 1, turn left and walk
along the road, thankfully buffered by a guardrail. You'll cross Pescadero
Creek on a bridge, and at 0.19 mile, turn left, descend a few steps,
and reach the beach. A trail sign points south, so walk to the
left through the sand, then cross under the highway bridge.
Driftwood is spread
throughout the sand along the north shore of Pescadero Creek, and when the water level is low it's
hard to locate the route. Look for a distant trail sign to the east,
at the edge of the vegetation, and make your way to it. The signed
hiking only Sequoia Audubon Trail winds through a mix of coastal plants,
including beach primrose, buckwheat, sea fig, and yellow bush lupine.
At 0.45 mile, the trail forks at an undersigned junction. Bear left.
The narrow trail keeps a level course along a slight levee. Mustard, wild
radish, paintbrush, Nutall's milkvetch, yarrow, and lizardtail all bloom
along the path well into summer months. At 0.50 mile, North Pond Trail
departs over a walkway to the left, marked by a signpost. Continue
straight on Sequoia Audubon Trail.
The trail passes over a small arm of the creek, where you might
see ducks. Blackberry, thistles,
dock, coffeeberry, and poison hemlock crowd the trail. At 0.70 mile, a
eucalyptus sprawls like an octopus, off the right side of the trail. When
I visited in July 2002, the trail was not passable after this point -- but when I returned in 2014, it was clear. Be sure to take a moment
and gaze north to a heron rookery tree in the eucalyptus grove just north
of the marsh. With binoculars you might see great blue herons and great
egrets, typically nesting from March to July. Look for an unmarked path heading a few feet off to the right. Here, under some eucalyptus, you'll find a peaceful bench on the edge of the creek.
The trail becomes less sandy as it enters a shaded lush stretch, with a few huge woodrat nests visible in the bushes. Poison oak muscles its way into a mixture of willow and twinberry, then nearly takes over as the trail steps out into coastal scrub. A short uphill zigzag ends at a bench and the trail stops at a wall of thick coyote brush. There are lovely views back to the west. When you're ready, retrace
your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 2.7 miles
Last hiked: July 17, 2014
July 29, 2002