Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach has miles of sandy beach, picnicking and easy hiking among the trails of the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.

Lying along the wild San Francisco Bay Peninsula, San Mateo County's coastline doesn't always get props as a beach hot spot. To forget the charms of the ocean anywhere, though, is a mistake, and to remember that you need only pull to the side of the freeway along this lonely stretch of coast and be rewarded with ocean landscapes like Pescadero State Beach.

It's a pretty standard-issue beach for this part of the world: flat and bordered by bluffs, with driftwood and tide pools revealed during low tide. Both wide and long, it's a good beach for exploring with kids, with learning opportunities to the left and to the right, from the tidal cycles to preservation to your basic "what's this bug?"

Hilltromper signup ad

Prepare for wind; long pants are the norm on this part of the California coast. You'll feel like you're in Oregon or somewhere far wilder, what with all these untamed elements untouched by beachgoers. This isn't the place to go to get a tan or pick up on lifeguards, but it's the perfect setting for a meditative walk, a day observing the natural world, or a picnic by the sea (the wind dies down at the foot of the bluffs).

The beach is fed by Pescadero Creek, and if you cross Highway 1 you'll find the creek's grand project, Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve. The proximity to such wild critters as herons, frogs and the occasional snake or skunk makes this a dandy hike for animal lovers, rich with safari-like wildlife spotting.

There are a few trails through the marsh, with the Sequoia-Audubon Trail starting at the North Pond trailhead. Leave your dog at home to walk this way, as the animals hiding within are protected here. This trail, detailed here, is a relatively easy hike with an incredible variety of wildlife viewing opportunities. Wander at your own will, and you'll find a mostly flat walk and and a peaceful estuary that spreads inland.

IDEAL FOR: Beach wandering, birding, nature nerding.

NOT SO MUCH Dogs, camping, fires or beachcombing. Find your sea glass elsewhere, friendo.

YOU'LL BE HAPPY IF YOU: Remember the $8 self-parking fee, bring water (the beach has none), dress for wind, watch the poison oak on the inland trails.

IF YOU'RE LUCKY YOU'LL: Avoid the natives. Pescadero State Beach is a refuge for multiple local animals, including skunks!

—Juliette Spirson

18253 Hwy 1, San Gregorio, CA. 650.879.2170. Learn more at the official Pescadero State Beach website.

Directions: From Half Moon Bay, drive south on Hwy 1 for 14 miles. There are two parking lots on the coast side of the road (the southernmost lot is at the intersection of Hwy 1 and Pescadero Rd) and one on the inland side. All three have primitive restrooms but no running water.

Sequoia Audubon Trail
1.5 miles RT; 30 min; easy; cumulative elev. gain 139 ft
Wander through marshes on this one-of-a-kind easy hike at Pescadero State Beach.