Wilbur's Watch Trail,
Peninsula Open Trust,
San Mateo County
In brief:
An easy and short hike with incredible coastal views near Pigeon Point.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.1 mile out and back hike is easy, with a gentle grade. Total elevation change is about 260 feet.

Completely exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trail.

Hiking time:
1 hour.

Nice any time; lovely in spring.

Getting there:
From CA 1 in San Mateo County 6 miles south of Pescadero Road, turn left onto Pigeon Point Road (this road has 2 junctions with CA 1; take the southern one, 0.6 mile south of the road leading west to the lighthouse). Drive a short distance, then turn right onto the trailhead access road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3710'59.19"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, stores, and restaurants north a few miles along CA 1. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Parking in a small gravel lot. No parking or entrance fees. No facilities. There are designated handicapped parking spots, but the trail is not well suited to wheelchairs. Pay phone and portable toilets at the Pigeon Point lighthouse. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

This hiking only trail is open from dawn to dusk. No dogs.

The Official Story:
Peninsula Open Space Trust
Peninsula Open Trust 650-854-7696

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.

Wilbur's Watch in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

There are many gorgeousTrailhead  state beaches along the San Mateo county coast, where you can explore dunes and stroll along the sandy coastline. Now, thanks to the Peninsula Open Trust, hikers can gain a different perspective of the area on Wilbur's Watch Trail. Funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the out and back trail commemorates Colburn Wilbur, a former director of the Foundation who worked to protect thousands of acres of land throughout California. From a tiny trailhead on Pigeon Point Road, the hiking-only trail climbs easily through coastal scrub, ending at a viewpoint where hikers can sit on rustic benches and gaze out at the sea. It's a peaceful, relaxed hike slightly hidden from the streams of vehicles touring the coast, and grants exceptional views with very little effort.Wilbur's Watch
     Begin from the edge of the parking lot near an information display about the trail. Switchbacks begin right away, easing the grade through a mix of grassland and low shrubs, including coyote brush, poison oak, sticky monkeyflower, and California coffeeberry. A few short and stocky Douglas firs provide good cover for hawks. In spring, colorful wildflowers enliven the hillsides; look for purple iris, purple-blue blue-eyed grass, pink checkerbloom, white yarrow, orange California poppy, yellow buttercups, red paintbrush, and blue and white lupine. Expect some patches of mud in late winter and early spring, but well-constructed culverts with attractive stone facings ease drainage during the wettest months of the year. View from the end of the trailTraffic noise from CA1 is audible, buts fades as you progress uphill. The trail passes a bench and keeps climbing, still at a slight incline, through grassland now only occasionally dotted with shrubs. As you gain elevation, views keep unfolding. Across a little canyon to the south, a windmill spins in the foreground, and the Santa Cruz Mountains rise up in the distance. On an April hike, I saw scrub jays chattering from shrub to shrub, and terrified a very shy deer into a brisk run. After weaving uphill, the trail ends at 1.06 miles. Here, some comfy wood benches are the perfect perches for a long lunch break with a view. Pigeon Point lighthouse is just to the north, and Año Nuevo Island is plainly visible to the south. An information display points out the natural features and history of the area, while a viewing scope (free -- no quarters required!) allows you to scan the ocean for migrating whales. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.12 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, April 5, 2005