The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area (Falcon Guides)
The distance: 4.3 miles (full trail is listed as 8.1 miles)
The CityGirls rating: 8 for the coastal trail, 2 for the trail towards Montara Mountain
Craving ocean and fresh air, we drove down to Montara and Gray Whale Cove State Beaches, just south of Devil’s Slide.

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The ocean and cliffs are good for the soul.

The new tunnels on Highway 1 bypassing Devil’s Slide had just recently opened after years of construction, and while we were sad to miss out on the beauty of the rocks around the promontory at Devil’s Slide, we didn’t miss the precarious nature of that stretch of road.

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Hey look! A tunnel! That’s much better than having rocks fall on you while driving around Devil’s Slide.

The Grey Whale Cove trail along the coast was beautiful. In fact, it was extra beautiful because it was wildflower season, and the blooms were both abundant and varied.

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It must be springtime!

Every turn of the trail led us to a hillside covered in a different sort of flower (maybe the flowers were slightly xenophobic and only wanted to associate with their own kind or something…).

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These orange flower-like things are okay making friends with the Coastal Sage, but no other flowers are allowed to get too close. Also, Coastal Sage is awesome. It smells yummy.

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The purple flowers don’t want to intermingle too much with the other flowers. Or maybe that bit of bluff was just the right mix of sun and moisture. Or maybe it’s just a bully flower and the other flowers don’t like it.

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This one had a spider friend over for brunch.

The areas of lush plant life also created little mini microclimates of humidity that made them quite a bit warmer than more open areas of the bluffs. Though it was a cold and overcast day, we found ourselves rather warm as we wandered over the bluffs.

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The trail as written in the book turned inland and worked its way up to the north peak of Montara Mountain. We started up along this trail, which was an old access road from the ranch that still sits in the park. It was a dull, steep trail of crumbling pavement that smelled of horse and decay.

There aren’t many trails that make us unhappy while hiking them (even the grueling ascent in the hot sun up the side of the Grand Canyon was worth it for the amazing fact of being inside the Grand Canyon), but this trail up away from the ocean was just depressing.

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We turned our footsteps back toward the coastline at the first junction, and we were much happier once back on the Grey Whale Cove trail.

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HIKE NOTES
Ease of following designated hike: 4. There are multiple paths along the bluffs, and the trails heading inland aren’t well marked, so we ended up starting with what should have been the return trail and doing the loop part backwards.
Best season to hike: Spring when the wildflowers are out and the weather is just changing. Summer would probably be good too if there’s not too much fog.
Our hike time: 2.5 hours.
Solitude: 6. There were a lot of people on the trail, but there’s something about the ocean that magnifies the space.