There is little to no shade along the trail, so make sure to bring enough water for the strenuous hike, sunscreen, and a hat to keep the sun off your head.
The French Trail
climbs from the lower portion of Rancho Corral de Tierra along a ridge until it meets with the Clipper Ridge Trail
. The trail offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Half Moon Bay, and Moss Beach. To access the trail, take Coral Reef Ave off of Highway 1 and park at the end. Hike out the San Carlos Trail
until the Flat Top Trail
breaks off to the right at roughly 0.25 miles. The trail becomes the French Trail
at this point and continues to wind its way through the brush, in some areas shaded until the trail goes off to the right and starts climbing up the ridge.
The trail opens up at this point and there is little shade or tree cover. From this point, the trail will climb uphill, often steeply, until it reaches the intersection with the Clipper Ridge Trail
. Roughly 0.25 miles after the intersection with the Flat Top Trail
, the trail begins to climb, at first gradually and then more steeply.
At half a mile, the trail begins to level out and if you turn around, you get some sweeping views of the ocean and the communities along the beach. As you continue to climb, the trail alternates from climbing steeply to a gradual climb. When you need to take a break, turn around and enjoy the views of the ocean. Small planes buzz overhead as they prepare to land at the Half Moon Bay airport, and larger planes can be seen as they prepare to land and as they take off from SFO over the mountains. While it is never quiet, the views are amazing.
After climbing for roughly 1.7 miles, the trail intersects with the Clipper Ridge Trail
. If you continue straight ahead, you can follow the Clipper Ridge Trail
to the top of the preserve. If you want to make it back to your car, you can follow the Clipper Ridge Trail
back down to your car, or retrace your steps. Either way, the views are great.
There is quite a bit of Cortaderia jubata, a weedy pampas grass that you pass through and can be seen along the hills of the park. There are some eucalyptus trees and pine trees at the lower end of the trail, but otherwise the trail is bordered by shrubs.
In terms of animals, a multitude of birds can be seen flying around. Turkey vultures, crows, and ravens can be seen flying above the trail. Other birds fly between the trees along the trail, offering a good opportunity for birders. Grasshoppers and small lizards can be seen scurrying along the trail as you pass by.