Gray Whale Cove trail is a wonderful, short, easy hike in the Devil’s Slide area with beautiful ocean views. The trail connects two parking lots and two beaches – Gray Whale Cove and Montara – so you may begin at either end. I chose to park at the northern lot and begin the trail there, as there are more parking spots available. The lot has a sign that says Montara State Beach/McNee Ranch, but it’s located just across the street from the steps to Gray Whale Cove beach.
From the southern end of the parking lot, follow the trail up through the coastal scrub. As the trail twists to the right and you walk in the direction of the ocean, you’ll have views of the beach below and of the old WWII military triangulation station that sits on a promontory to the north. Spring is a great time to visit the area and catch the abundant blooming of wildflowers. A myriad of pink, yellow, purple, orange, and white flowers line the trail. San Mateo tree lupine, Pacific Stonecrop, wild iris, and Hickman’s Potentilla can all be spotted along the trail, the latter of which is a rare species endemic to San Mateo and Monterey counties.
The level trail continues to wind along the edge of the mountain, parallel to Highway 1, before coming to a small turn off with two benches overlooking the ocean and Montara State Beach (roughly the halfway point). During migratory times this would be a perfect spot to pull out your binoculars and watch for whales. Past this point, the trail crosses paths with the Old Pedro Mountain trail on the left. Stay straight (a slight veer to the right), past the arrowed signpost. Be sure to follow signs to stay on the trail as restoration efforts are in progress. The path descends as it approaches an old dirt road. Just before hitting the road go to the right and walk through the cypress forest out to Highway 1. Once here, you can cross the road and walk down to Montara State beach, or head back the way you came.