The California Coastal Trail, envisioned as a continuous trail along the 1,200-mile California coastline, just picked up 3.6 more miles with the opening of the Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trail south of Half Moon Bay. The trail, built and managed by Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) with funding from the state Coastal Conservancy, takes hikers and cyclists (and wheelchair users most of the way) along steep coastal bluffs at eye level with pelicans, gulls, and redtail hawks. The trail affords views of beaches with harbor seal haul-outs and across farmland to the Santa Cruz Mountains.
While Bay Area hikers are accustomed to hiking on rangeland dotted with cattle, it’s less common to hike a trail that skirts the fields of brussels sprouts, artichokes, and leeks that thrive on this foggy terrace. The Coastal Conservancy and POST worked closely with farmer John Giusti, whose father farmed Cowell Ranch, to minimize impacts on the farm while allowing public access, says the Coastal Conservancy’s Tim Duff.
The trail’s northern portion is closed weekdays from June to September due to farming operations, but it’s open seven days a week the rest of the year. The northern trailhead begins at Cowell State Beach, approximately three miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1.
In related news, POST recently transferred 140 acres at Pillar Point Bluff to the San Mateo County parks department, which will add this popular portion of the Coastal Trail to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
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The California Coastal Trail runs west of Highway 1 along this scenic stretch of the San Mateo coast.