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An Autumn Day In Half Moon Bay

This article was first published in The Epoch Times on October 21, 2022.

Autumn is a fine time to visit Half Moon Bay on the San Mateo coast of California. The weather can vary from foggy to sunny, but the temperature is usually in the 60’s or 70’s. It is perfect hiking weather.

The Coastal Trail

The 11.5 mile coastal trail officially runs from the north at the Dardanelle Trail at Cypress Avenue in Moss Beach, to the south at the Cowell Ranch trail south of Miramontes Point Road in Half Moon Bay. Most of the trail is paved and open to hikers, bikers, and strollers. You might even see some horseback riders alongside parts of the trail. It is popular with locals and visitors alike.

A map of the Coastal Trail, on display at the Half Moon Bay State Beach visitor center.
An equestrian guide leads a small group of riders alongside the coastal trail.

On sunny days there are beautiful views of the ocean. On foggy days, like the day of this writing, the trail offers delights such as soaring hawks and dewy spider webs.

Dew highlights the intricacies of this amazing spider web.

One section of the trail at Wavecrest, south of Poplar Street in Half Moon Bay, is an unimproved section best for hiking and mountain bikes. It is known as the Bird Trail at Wavecrest because of its large population of wintering raptors. On any autumn or winter day, you might see red-tailed hawks, white-tailed kites, northern harriers, or American kestrels. On the day we were there, we saw all four species.

A Red-tailed hawk perches near parked bikes on the Wavecrest trail.
A foggy day does not obscure the delights of the coastal trail.

The Visitor Center

A good place to start your hike going north or south on the Coastal Trail is at 95 Kelly Avenue, near Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay. Besides the benefit of a large parking lot and restrooms, there is a compact and informative state park visitor center. Docents will gladly answer your questions and teach you about the history, or native flora and fauna, of Half Moon Bay.

The Half Moon Bay State Beach visitor center, open on weekends from 9 to 5.
Compact but informative, docents at the visitor center welcome your questions.

The visitor center is only open on weekends from 9AM to 5PM. The parking lot is open daily from 8AM to sunset.

The Devil’s Slide Trail

North of the Coastal Trail, between Montara and Pacifica, lies the Devil’s Slide. This one-mile section of Highway 1 that winds along the coast, used to be notorious for fatal car accidents and landslides. But on March 26, 2013, the Devil’s Slide was bypassed with the opening of the Tom Lantos tunnels. The 4,200 foot tunnels, named in memoriam after Congressman Lantos–an early advocate for the tunnels–provide a link between Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, as well as another route to San Francisco.

The Tom Lantos tunnels next to the southern parking lot at Devil’s Slide.

In 2014, the state converted the old Devil’s Slide into a hiking/biking trail. It is a wonderful trail with protective barriers, restrooms, and water stations on each end. Nesting seabirds and migrating whales can be seen from the trail. Educational signage is posted along the way, and benches are placed at various viewpoints.

The paved Devil’s Slide trail runs one mile along the San Mateo coast.
Lane lines separate bikers from walkers. Cars are not allowed.

Parking is limited, so arrive early on the weekends. Also, the approach to the southern end of the parking lot should still be approached with care. Do not drive too fast.

Looking south along HWY 1 from the southern entrance to the Devil’s Slide trail.

Pumpkins Galore

Half Moon Bay is famous for its many pumpkin patches. And here, one pumpkin patch is not like another. From pick-your-own pumpkins in a peaceful field, to a festive carnival–there is this and everything in-between. And here’s a tip: the quieter patches don’t charge an entrance fee. The livelier patches usually charge for both parking and separate entertainment, like pony-rides or haunted houses. You will be able to see the difference in pumpkin patches as you drive by them.

One of many pumpkin patches along HWY 92 in Half Moon Bay.
Besides pumpkins, Bob’s Pumpkin Farm, north on HWY 1, offers fresh eggs and free parking.

Many of the pumpkin patches are located off of HWY 92–the inland approach to Half Moon Bay. Others are on Highway 1, north and south of the 92 junction. Typing in “pumpkin patch Half Moon Bay” on Google maps will show the locations. Just remember, traffic can be terrible in October, so plan on arriving early in the morning.

For a separate fee, the Arata Pumpkin patch, north on HWY 1, offers a huge hay-bale maze.
Fresh brussel sprouts and a variety of pumpkins fill our wheelbarrow.

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

This year the 50th anniversary of Half Moon Bay’s popular art & pumpkin festival ran on October 15 & 16, 2022. The festival features world-champion pumpkins (by weight), food, drink, art and entertainment.

A photo of my son from the 2001 pumpkin festival. Don’t worry about his safety, Dad was holding him tightly from behind!

The event takes place each year on Main Street, which is worth visiting in its own right. Boutique shops, art galleries, bakeries, and restaurants line the street. It’s crowded, but lots of fun. Arrive early or consider taking public transportation to the festival. For more information, visit their website at ​​https://pumpkinfest.miramarevents.com/

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous

    Another great article Karen. We love half moon bay and have done the coastal hike many times
    The birds are spectacular and do not seem to fear humans. What a treat to get so close to them!
    Thanks,
    Tish

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      You’re welcome Tish! I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. Jeannine Jeannine

    What a huge Red-tailed hawk! There must be lots of good “snacks” along the trail. Your son was so cute as a pumpkin topper.
    Devil’s Slide looks like a treacherous road that Alfred Hitchcock may have used in a movie once upon a time. A tunnel is a smaht idea.
    Thanks for sharing your Half Moon Bay views.

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