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Devil's Slide Trail

Cars no longer reign on a gorgeous stretch of the San Mateo coast.

Devils Slide trail, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Helynn Ospina
Photo caption
Benches along the Devil's Slide Trail allow visitors to linger with a view.

Sheer cliffs, crashing surf, circling peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks—the Devil’s Slide Trail just south of Pacifica, Calif., packs an astonishing array of natural beauty into a 1.3-mile stretch of what was once Highway 1.

Two years ago, vehicle traffic was rerouted through the new Tom Lantos Tunnels. Now pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians own the road, which was repaved and lined with interpretive panels and welcoming benches. Early fall is often pleasant and breezy; view-obscuring fog tends to burn off by midday.

Turn your gaze upward to discover dramatic examples of the coastal erosion that earned the area its name, including exposed layers of shale and sandstone pushing up against the granite slopes of Montara Mountain. The downside of such epic scenery? Limited space for parking at the path’s two ends. To avoid frustration, arrive early or visit on weekends, when 15 daily buses link Pacifica to the northern trailhead.

If that trail feels like merely a warm-up, you can head inland to Old Pedro Mountain Road, a steep track that switchbacks through McNee Ranch State Park. The route follows the 1913 road that was replaced by Highway 1, giving hikers and bikers ample opportunity to imagine the white-knuckle rides of yore.

This article was first published in Fall 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.