A geologic inevitability, Devil’s Slide is situated high above the Pacific Ocean between the coastal towns of Pacifica and Halfmoon Bay. For decades, it has been a consistent and persistent headache for local motorists and CalTrans alike, closing Highway 1 innumerable times as sections have slid into the hungry surf below. In 1996, voters approved a proposal to tunnel through Montara Mountain to bypass this costly annoyance. Following the tunnel’s opening in March of 2013, the bypassed road bed was handed over to the San Mateo County Parks, and on March 27, 2014, the Devil’s Slide Trail was opened to public use after an extensive transformation.
What You’ll See - Sensational views of the Pacific Ocean as well as passing ships and fishing boats, and perhaps a whale or two, depending on the season. On a clear day, the rarely viewed opposite-side profile of Mountain Tamalpais in Marin County is well defined, and you might even catch a glimpse of the far-away white cliffs of Point Reyes or the Farallon Islands.
How to Get There - There are two entrance points with parking lots at either end of the 1.6 mile trail, each located near a tunnel entrance; the North entrance is 2.5 miles past Pacifica. The parking is limited in both lots (they open at 8am). An alternative is to use the City of Pacifica’s shuttle, which operates a free weekend shuttle to the north trailhead on Saturdays and Sundays.
What You’ll Find - The recently paved surface has both pedestrian and bike lanes and makes the park accessible to those that may have mobility challenges; that said there is a 250-foot elevation difference on the trail, with the north side average grade to the highest point being about 5 percent versus a 7 to 8 percent average coming from the south lot. There are restrooms at both entrances, along with informative signage; dogs on leash are permitted and pet waste stations are provided.
What to Bring - Well-placed benches have been placed at strategic points along the trail and make the prospect of a picnic lunch an inviting activity. While there are a number of telescopes in place along the trail, bringing a pair of binoculars is a good idea. Nearby Pacifica has numerous spots to grab lunch if picnicking isn’t your cup of tea.
Other Points of Interest - The South terminus of the trail offers a couple of interesting sights—among them the peculiar looking “hanging bunker” (a WWII defensive position) perched on a sandstone pillar to the south of the lot; or closely examine the almost surreal faux rock entrances to the tunnels that CalTrans has artfully constructed. The extensive open space of the Pedro Point Headlands lies adjacent to the North parking lot and offers additional hiking opportunities, although the trails are narrow and a bit steep in places. Many recent Yelp reviews have indicated a pride of mountain lions may have taken up residence there so caution is advised if hiking alone or with small dogs and/or children.