Montara Mountain is a popular destination for mountain bikers and day hikers on the San Francisco Peninsula. Lured by 360-degree views of the Bay Area, scores of visitors make the rigorous climb to the summit. On a clear day, one can see Mount Diablo, Mount Tamalpais and the San Francisco Bay.
Also known as McNee Ranch State Park, Montara Mountain was once owned by Don Francisco Sanchez and subsequently by the land baron Duncan McNee. Cattle grazed on the mountain’s steep slopes from the time of Spanish colonization through the 20th century. The difficult terrain and thick foliage deterred development and preserved the pristine coastal habitat, which is now managed by California State Parks.
Adjacent to the park is Rancho Corral de Tierra, whose trails are currently being named and expanded by the National Park Service. Additionally, Montara Mountain Trail connects hikers from nearby San Pedro Valley County Park.
The northern terminus of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Montara Mountain drops swiftly from its highest point of 1,898 feet all the way to the sea in a few short miles. The most direct hiking route begins at Gray Whale Cove Trail, and through a series of steep ridgeline climbs, reaches North Peak in roughly 3 miles. With a similarly challenging grade, the broad gravel road, North Peak Access Road, reaches the summit in about 4 miles.
Other more gradual alternatives include segments of Old Pedro Mountain Road and Gray Whale Cove Trail combined with North Peak Access Road. While North Peak is the area’s highest point, it is topped with communication towers. The slightly lower Peak Mountain is a recommended summit that is free of obstruction.
Poison oak is prevalent on Montara Mountain, so wear proper boots and long pants if you are planning to venture out on less groomed secondary trails. Sun, high winds, and fog are all likely in the coastal park, often in the same day. Prepare for changing conditions. Dogs are allowed on leash in the park, but please note that dogs are not allowed on the Montara Mountain Trail. Be sure to check specific trails for bike and equestrian regulations.