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Coast Trail: Half Moon Bay to Cowell Ranch

Easy/Intermediate

Trail

4.2 mile 6.8 kilometer point to point
Easy/Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 157' 48 m
Descent: -98' -30 m
High: 102' 31 m
Low: 37' 11 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 7% (4°)

Dogs

Leashed
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Trail shared by Lee Watts

Hike along coastal bluffs with beach access, numerous canyons, and great views.

Lee Watts

Features Birding · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Parking at Kelly Beach costs a flat $10.00. At Poplar Beach it is $2.00/hour or $10.00 all day. The remaining parking locations are free: at the end of Wavecrest Road near the Baseball diamond, at the end of Redondo Beach Road (room for 50 - 70 cars), and 25 spots reserved for coastal access in the Ritz Carlton Hotel parking lot. All will fill early on a warm weekend.

Description

This segment of the Coastal Trail runs south from Kelly Road in Half Moon Bay to the south end of the Ritz Carlton Hotel's golf course, with an extension trail leading to the stairs at Cowell Ranch Beach. I prefer this segment of the Coastal Trail over the segment that extends north from Kelly Road. Here the trail stays close to the undeveloped coastal bluffs, except for brief bends inland to get around canyons. In comparison to the northern segment, the bluffs are higher, the canyons are deeper, and it has a wilder feel.

From Kelly Ave (Francis Beach), the paved trail goes south 0.75 miles to Poplar Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the area. The sand extends for miles in both directions and is bordered by bluffs with numerous small canyons.

From Poplar Beach to the Wavecrest Open Space (at 1.4 miles), the trail is a wide, gravelly road. Wavecrest is an important wintering ground for raptors. It is covered with cypress trees and has a couple of beautiful spots to stop for lunch among the trees that overlook the bluffs.

There is no pavement or gravel road from Wavecrest to Redondo Beach Rd. Instead there are a series of alternative dirt trails. None are marked with signs, so there is no way to say which should be considered the coast trail. You can choose a straighter trail as I marked or trails that run next to the bluffs and then curve around canyons. Just before Redondo Beach, all trails suitable for bikes go inland about 0.3 miles in order to get around a shallow but long canyon. For healthy, flexible hikers, there is a rough, eroded trail which cuts across the canyon and also provides access to the beach. This shortcut saves over 1/2 mile.

From Redondo Beach the trail is again paved, except for a rough 30-yard section just before it enters the Ritz Carlton property. This rough spot would be a problem for anyone in a wheelchair. From there, the paved trail curves around the Ritz Carlton Hotel and runs high along the bluffs next to the golf course. In the middle of this section, stairs provide access to the beautiful Manhattan Beach, which has good tide pools.

At the south end of the golf course, there is a sign saying "End of Coast Trail". However a dirt trail continues on 0.3 miles to the Cowell Ranch Beach trail.This extension is used by hikers, joggers and bikers just as much as the official portion of the trail.

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We need help with the following missing trail information:

Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna

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Jul 27, 2019
Courtney B

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote

#10640

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#1,185

in California

#10,640

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Photos

Beach, rocks, and golf course from trail on north side of the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Jun 11, 2019 near Half Mo…, CA
Paved trail runs along the coastal bluffs next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel and golf course.
Jun 11, 2019 near Half Mo…, CA
A little bit like the slot canyons of Utah -- except the polished sandstone is replace by brown dirt.
Jun 12, 2019 near Half Mo…, CA

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