I love that giddy feeling I get before heading out on the trail – the suspense and joyful anticipation of what lies ahead. As I envision the magnitude of public trail access connecting the Bay to the Sea and beyond in all directions, my mind seizes with excitement. I’ve also been flushed with adrenaline on trails that seemingly hang on the edge of the California coast.

This is the view from the Cowell-Purisima Trail that follows the coast through POST-protected Cowell Ranch. Photo: Zionne Fox

Our regional trail priorities at POST promise to keep these feelings going. One of these priorities is to support the planning and development of the California Coastal Trail as it transects San Mateo County squeezing between the crashing waves along the coastal bluffs and the rising foothills.

Highway 1 is also sandwiched between these landscapes as well as significant amounts of farmland, which POST is protecting and conserving through our Farmland Futures Initiative.

Sections of the California Coastal Trail are open now, but what it promises to provide in the future is beyond epic. And this isn’t just a vision; this trail is an official priority designated in our State’s legislature. The trail will extend 1,200 miles between the borders of Oregon and Mexico offering a multi-use trail experience along the entire California coastline.

In 2023, a feasibility study was completed on the 18 miles of unbuilt trail in southern San Mateo county. Conducted by POST in partnership with Caltrans and many regional partners, this study focused on discovering trail route options, determining costs, and understanding how local communities will want to use the new section of trail. (For more information about the study results and next steps, contact Bryanna Whitney at [email protected].)

Not so incidentally, POST’s work protecting farmlands is integral to our work on regional trails.

In POST’s effort to protect farmland (and open space), we are also working in tandem to ensure that trail easements along the coast are secured in perpetuity for designation as part of the California Coastal Trail.

This incredible landscape will be conserved to protect ecosystems, farms and recreational opportunities. What a trifecta!

Here are two highlights from this uniquely California trail experience; both are open segments of the developing California Coastal Trail. Keep in mind as you visit these trails that this is just the tip of the iceberg – the through-hiking/biking experience is well in the works, so stay tuned as I share more highlights and updates.

Cowell-Purisima Trail (Rachael Lopes, 2017)

Cowell-Purisima Trail (Rachael Lopes, 2017)

A supreme example of farmland conservation, land stewardship and recreational preservation going hand-in-hand; this section of the California Coastal Trail won’t disappoint.

Parking and restrooms are available at each end of the 3.6-mile (one way) trail, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Head out in the early morning to catch the raptors swooping their prey. Depending on the season you go the adjacent working farmlands may be growing Brussels sprouts, artichokes or other coastal crops.

Click here for trail info.


Bean Hollow State Beach (Rachael Lopes, 2017)

This is truly an iconic segment of the California Coastal Trail with singletrack fringed by blooming ice plants hugging the coastline. There is parking and restrooms at each end of this 1.9-mile (one way) trail.

Check out the tide chart and plan to go at low tide (anytime below 1’) for best tide pooling and beachcombing. Developed stairs connect the trail to the beaches. It’s gray whale migration season January through mid-April, so bring your binoculars and look west!

Click here for trail info.

Photos by Zionne Fox

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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