If you are looking for a moderately strenuous hike with amazing views, be sure to visit McNee Ranch State Park in Montara.
I’m a true Californian who loves the ocean. I grew up by the beach and could never imagine a life where the waves weren’t a short drive away. When I think about my favorite hikes most of them involve a beautiful view of the ocean. I love a hike that makes you work for it. A big climb for an even better reward. That is my ideal trail.
Which brings me to McNee Ranch. McNee Ranch is one of my Top 5 favorite hikes in the Bay Area. It is one of those hikes that always reminds me why I love hiking so much.
A California Coastal Hike
Sweeping views of the ocean, Montara State Beach, Farallon Islands and Pillar Point off in the distance? Check. The perfect mix of cool ocean breeze and sunshine to make the climb doable, even enjoyable? Check. Dog friendly, bike friendly, runner and hiker friendly? Check. You’ll want to share this gem of a hike with all of your friends. Even the non-outdoorsy ones.
I usually start my hike at the main entrance to McNee Ranch. There is a large parking lot across the highway from Grey Whale Cove State Beach. From this parking lot you take the Grey Whale Cove trail which snakes along the cliff overlooking Highway 1 and the waves below. This trail is flat and if you are looking for a short, easy hike, you can just enjoy this portion of the hike. There are a couple of benches to stop and enjoy the view along the way. Continue to follow Grey Whale Cove trail until you meet with North Peak Access Road and follow that up as far as you’d like to go. If you make it to the top you will do about 1900’ of elevation gain about 7.5 miles in total.
For our most recent trip, we decided to start from the small parking lot where the North Peak Access road meets Highway 1. There is parking for maybe 4 cars. Just a short way up the trail, once you get to the ranger’s house, there is a port-o-potty. Continue up North Peak Access road until you reach the top or a suitable resting place.
Enjoy the view at McNee Ranch State Park
We have a favorite clearing area where we like to stop and enjoy the view. This was the first time we had been up this way in quite awhile. I was surprised that Eleanor lasted so long. She seems to do better when Dad and the dogs are along for the hike.
We stopped and let Eleanor crawl around and play in the dirt (dirt is good for your baby!) while we enjoyed a couple of beers and the view. It was such a beautiful day with perfect weather.
Afterwards, we headed back down and surprisingly Eleanor ended up making it about 6 miles! I think that is the longest she has ever hiked. I am now confident we could take her for a short backpacking trip in the spring.