The Bay Area’s newest trail opened this week on Thursday, March 27, in San Mateo County. Just south of Pacifica, Devils Slide Trail is a reminder of our ever-shifting coastline and the forces that shape it. The Costal Conservancy has teamed up with volunteers and San Mateo County Parks to show how the human element can have a positive effect on the delicate balance of costal life. Restoration of native plant species and protection of the animals that call these fragile cliffs home will be an ongoing mission at Devils Slide Trail.
Devils Slide Trail lies a mile south of Pacifica at the base of Pedro Point Headlands. The 1.3-mile trail is entirely paved and strewn with the industrial trappings of safety and necessity. Wire netting fights the forces of gravity that give the rock-slide prone area its name. Fencing and cement barricades keep visitors at a safe distance from potentially crumbling cliffs. If the broad, paved trail gives you the eerie feeling that you’re walking down the middle of an abandoned highway, it’s because you are.
Devils Slide Trail is a decommissioned section of Highway 1, closed in 2013 after the completion of tunnels to reroute traffic around the eroding hillside. Landslides plagued the area for decades and subsequently cutoff costal access on Highway 1.
The Bay Area coastline roughly follows the boundary between the North American and Pacific Plates. Along the trail, beautiful striations can be seen in the sedimentary rock heaved upward by plate tectonics. It is the collision of this rock with Montara Mountain's granite, in combination with the constant pounding of the Pacific Ocean, that contributes to the area's notorious erosion.
The dramatic geology and gorgeous ocean views that previously tempted drivers to peek away from the road can now be enjoyed at a slower pace. Walkers and bikers make the 2.6-mile round trip stopping off at overlooks furnished with benches and sea view telescopes. The trail is ADA accessible and suitable for all ability levels; however, the northbound segment is a bit steep.
Signage indicates that the trail is open to equestrians, but the logistics of getting a horse to the site are challenging. Each end of the trail has limited parking and will not comfortably accommodate a horse trailer. Riding a horse along Highway 1 to either entrance is not advisable.
Water and restrooms are located at each trailhead, and dogs are allowed on leash. A free weekend shuttle is available from Pacifica. Visit cityofpacifica.org for schedules.