Hikes and Rambles

Hikes and Rambles: Gray Whale Cove and Trail

My husband is out of town for the week, which means I just have to get out of the house even more then usual. Today that meant the usual routine in the morning, followed by swim lessons, followed by getting in the car and frantically googling in the carport to find someplace to go.

Luck would have it that I set the destination as Gray Whale Cove State Beach and 40 minutes later we found ourselves in a little parking lot on the side of Highway 1 overlooking the ocean.

Gray Whale Cove Social Media

Towards the mountain is the 2.3 mile Gray Whale Trail which we decided to walk just enough for the best possible view of the beach, probably a quarter mile or so. The trail started out very narrow with bushes hanging onto the trail from both sides but after you climbed the initial steep portion, it opened up and became a very pleasant walking trail surrounded by wildflowers.

Gray Whale Trailhead SignGray Whale TrailGray Whale Trail at the ridge

HJ with Gray Whale Cove Beach behind her
HJ dressed as a pirate and holding a single sock.

Wildflowers along Gray Whale TrailHJ on Gray Whale Trail


From here came the tricky part, crossing Highway 1 without getting smushed. Seriously though, you need to be very careful because the traffic is fast and there is a blind curve right near the crossing. If you have young children carrying them would really be the best way to go.

Once you play chicken cross safely you’ll walk a little ways down a dirt road before descending down some stairs. The stairs have a fair amount of graffiti on them, but when you get to the bottom you’ll see the cement drain pipe has really been made the art project.

Stairs and drainage pipe to Gray Whale Cove

Once we jumped over the little drainage stream we found ourselves with almost the entire beach to ourselves, but the best part was the ocean completely masked the highway noise.

The San Mateo Coast Beach brochure says “Never turn your back on the ocean.” It’s easy to read that at home on my computer and wonder what the heck it means, but when we were there today the ocean was absolutely making its power known. Maybe if Chris had been there we would have let the kids get their feet wet, but since I was outnumbered we didn’t go near it. Especially since I’m not a strong swimmer and HJ has been having recurring dreams about drowning (or has just been talking repeatedly about one dream? The line between fact and fantasy is very blurred at this age.)

Over the course of the 2 hours we were there the crowds did pick up a bit, but at one time the most was probably 10 people on the whole beach. Something about the location and the parking makes me think it never gets crowded.

It’s worth noting that the website specifically says that they do not accept the annual California day-use pass, but their website does not list a fee for parking and I did not see any place in the parking lot to pay. So as far as I could tell it is free. Don’t quote me on that though, and don’t turn me in if I’m wrong!

Beach Gray Whale CoveWaves crashing at Gray Whale CoveCliffs surrounding Gray Whale CoveTrees growing on the cliffsK walking on the beachPlants growing on the side of the cliff

What do you think?