Devil's Slide

Wildly scenic Devil's Slide, just south of San Francisco: Sometimes it's nice being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

When the Tom Lantos bypass tunnels opened in early 2013, motor traffic travelling between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco—or more precisely, Montara and Pacifica—was diverted off a treacherous, erosion-wrought portion of Highway 1 that barely clung to the cliff above the Pacific Ocean.

But what to do with the old road, known for its staggering coastal views and narrow turns?

The newly abandoned asphalt presented a unique opportunity to replace the harrowing driving experience with a friendly outdoor escape. The Devil’s Slide Trail debuted in March 2014 to a chorus of cheers from locals

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The 1.3-mile paved multi-use trail (2.6 miles round trip, easy, about 350 feet of elevation gain) offers a chance to take in the fantastic coastal views from a comfortable bench instead of from behind the wheel. Waves crash on the rocks far below, there is interesting geology to ogle and a series of informational signs introduce the history and local wildlife. There are pit toilets and drinking fountains on both ends of the trail, and benches and vista points along its length.

A portion of the path is moderately steep, so while it's great for a family stroll, you may find yourself huffing and puffing if pushing a double stroller uphill or towing a toddler in a bike trailer.

With two small lots, parking can be tough on warm weekends, but there is a decent turnover rate, and several gravel pullouts are located along the highway in both directions.

If you’re in the mood for a longer jaunt, Devil’s Slide trail link ups with the Pacifica bike path, heading towards the surfers and famous beachfront Taco Bell of downtown. Or head south and follow the crowds trudging up the sandy hill to Bunker Point. On the east side of the highway, nearby trails head into the hills of McNee Ranch State Park on Montara Mountain.

Gray Whale Cove and other beaches are close as well, among the 8,900 acres of land and protected open space linked by the Devil’s Slide Coast Project.

DO: Take your entire family, canines included.

DON'T BOTHER: Seeking solitude here. It's justifiably popular.

NOT TO NAG, BUT: Obey the trail’s 15mph speed limit if you’re riding two wheels, and use caution when driving in the area with all the pedestrians roving about.

REASONS FOR HAPPY DANCING: Getting a parking space on the weekend and not being forced to experience the effects of erosion firsthand.

—Kelsey Farabee

Highway One, Pacifica, CA. 650.355.8289. Learn more at the official Devil’s Slide Trail website.

Directions: Trailheads and parking lots are located at both ends of the Devil’s Slide Trail. Coming from Pacifica, veer right into the parking lot about a quarter mile after leaving town. The City of Pacifica’s free weekend shuttle to Devil's Slide will service the trailhead from other stops including Pacifica State Beach, the Linda Mar Shopping Center and several major intersections.

Heading north from Montara, it’s a left turn into the parking lot.

Find directions to Devil's Slide here.

2.6 miles RT; 1 hour; easy; about 350 ft elev gain