Montara Mountain Day Hike
May 26, 2018
Distance: 14.7 miles Time: 4.50 hours Pace: 3.27 mph Elevation Gain: 2759 feet
Montara Mountain is the northern point of the Santa Cruz mountain range and only a 10 minute drive up the coast from my home. At 1,898 feet above sea level this coastal favorite gives hikers and bikers stunning views of the Bay Area. Montara Mountain is also historically famous as a crossing site of the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola in October 1769.
Although not technically a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, I opted for this route because it was close to home, convenient, and was more accessible than the SF Watershed trail passing the same section, which is only available on guided tours by reservation. I began my climb at Frenchman's Creek Road at the intersection of Highway 1, meandering a slight grade through farms and massive greenhouses. This eventually steepens into a well-maintained fire road (with a locked gate, shhh) that cuts neatly through miles of scrub hillsides. Sitting atop the southern ridge of Rancho Corral de Tierra is Scarpet Peak, which I recently found is as rich in history as the rest of the surrounding Coastside. Apparently this peak was used in mock military exercises in 1912, and was originally named after George Scarpa, a Sicilian immigrant turned wealthy cattle rancher in the area.
Check out more history of Scarpet (Scarpa) peak here.
Continuing along the fire road (and back over the other side of that pesky gate), the trail follows the backbone of Rancho Corral de Tierra and features panoramic views of Half Moon Bay, Princeton Harbor, and the glittering Pacific Ocean. If I ever do this hike again I'll make sure to be up here at sunset.
Montara Mountain's peak is at the northern end of the ridgeline, and cuts back down steeply to the northern trailhead and parking lot. I was surprised that I only saw 4 other hikers all day, and none until the final descent.