San Mateo County Harbor District,
San Mateo County
1.2 mile out and back walk from the outskirts of Princeton harbor to the beach.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.2 mile out and back walk is very easy, on a completely flat trail. You can supplement the excursion with a climb to a bluff with ocean views, and scramble down a hillside for a walk on the beach.
Dirt fire road and sandy beach.
Under an hour.
Nice any time.
From CA 1 in San Mateo County (about 3 miles north of the CA 92 junction in Half Moon Bay), turn west at a traffic light onto Capistrano. Drive about 0.3 mile on Capistrano, then turn left onto Prospect. Drive 0.1 mile, then turn left onto Broadway. Almost immediately, turn right onto Princeton. Drive about 0.4 mile, then turn right onto West Point Avenue. Drive about 0.6 mile, to the parking lot on the left at the end of the road, before the entrance to the Air Force station.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Several restaurants line Capistrano Road on the way to the trailhead. More extensive services, with stores, gas, and pay phones, are available in nearby Half Moon Bay, El Granada, and Moss Beach. No camping.
Dirt parking lot. No parking or entrance fees. There are portable toilets, but no drinking water or maps. There is a designated handicapped parking spot, and the trail is well-suited to wheelchairs (except in wet weather). SamTrans bus #17 stops within walking distance of the trailhead. Visit the Transit Info website for details.
Parking lot is open from sunrise to sunset. Dogs are permitted on leash only, on the trail to the point. Dogs and horses are not permitted on the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve's beaches. Equestrians don't frequent the area.
The Official Story:
San Mateo County Harbor District's Pillar Point page
SMCP's Fitzgerald page
Pillar Point Harbor 650-726-5727
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from SMCP
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) has a good map of the area, and is helpful in getting there (available from Pease Press).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Frances Spangle, and Betsy Crowder (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and a brief description of the trail to Pillar Point.
Pillar Point in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured walk.
View photos from the walk.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
the trail out to Pillar Point is short, mellow, and quiet, the
trailhead parking lot is commonly full with cars and trucks toting surfboards.
In addition to the 1.2 mile out-and-back walk to Pillar Point, the trailhead
also is a staging area for surfers riding the waves at Mavericks, a famously
challenging stretch of Pacific Ocean slightly to the north of Pillar Point.
Rock formations and churning surf are visible from the point, but surfers
are out of view, and access from the point to their beach is blocked by
a rocky bluff. You can watch the surfers in action on a separate walk
starting from the parking lot. Cross the paved road and hop over the yellow
gate, then ascend a paved fire road. Look for one of several unsigned
dirt paths on the left. After a short walk through pretty coastal scrub,
you'll arrive at the edge of a bluff. From here on clear days surfers are
visible, although you may want to get a better view with binoculars. If
you'd like to walk along the beach, you can scramble downhill via a network
of steep paths. The entire coastline from Pillar Point to Moss Beach is
part of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, and is a publicly-accessible beach.