Devil’s Slide Trail

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Devil’s Slide Trail is a brand new paved multi-use trail along the rugged Devil’s Slide area on the San Mateo County coast. It is a re-purposed use of the former CA-1 roadway, which became available for the trail with the 2013 opening of the twin tunnels. These tunnels bypass the stretch of road that had been closed by landslides dozens of times since CA-1 opened through the area in 1937. The multi-use trail has two bike lanes and a hiking/equestrian lane, in addition to interpretive signs, overlooks, drinking water, and parking and restrooms at each end. Oh yes, and stunning close-up views of the Slide and the Pacific Ocean. The trail opened to the public on 27 March 2014, and I thank a friend who brought it to my attention. It was a whole week before I was able to get there and experience this beautiful trail.

The north parking area has marked spaces for 15 cars, in addition to 2 Handicapped parking spaces. The south parking area has marked spaces for 22 cars, in addition to 2 Handicapped parking spaces. Each parking area is in 2 sections due to the terrain layout. The trail itself is 1.3 miles long with 3 overlooks between, spaced roughly 1/3 mile apart. The tunnels do not appear on the maps in my GPS software, so my GPS track appears to be (mostly) along the old road. (The route differences are due to the condensed map database, so the road route is not quite correctly shown.)

GPS track

GPS track

I started from the south trailhead. From here the trail climbs about 200 feet and then descends about 100 feet to the north trailhead. I actually walked to the far end of the parking areas at each end, so my total hiking distance is a little longer than twice the length of the trail.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

As I left my parked car, before I even got to the trailhead, I noticed this view looking south at the waves crashing into the bottom of the cliff. It is easy to see that erosion of the cliffs is a constant action.

picture of waves along the Devil’s Slide coastline

Waves along the Devil’s Slide coastline

The trail passes through a slot between the main cliff and a smaller one at the ocean side. Signage indicates that the Common Murre Restoration Project  is being carried out in the area. Shortly Devil’s Slide Rock comes into view. This rock hosted a breeding colony of some 3,000 common murres until the early 1980’s, but the colony was completely wiped out by human-caused mortality (gill nets and an oil spill). The colony is now being re-established and monitored, and murres as well as Brandt’s cormorants and perhaps some pigeon guillemots live on the top of the rock.

image of Devil’s Slide Rock with seabirds including common murres, Brandt’s cormorants, and perhaps pigeon guillemots

Devil’s Slide Rock with seabirds including common murres, Brandt’s cormorants, and perhaps pigeon guillemots

Looking roughly north along the coastline there is a beautiful view of San Pedro Rock, about a mile away, with Mt Tamalpais behind, about 25 miles away. It’s an unusual perspective to see Mt Tam across the open water of the Pacific Ocean!

photo of San Pedro Rock, with Mt Tamalpais in the background

San Pedro Rock, with Mt Tamalpais in the background

One of the overlooks is at the small rise at about 0.5 mile on the elevation profile. The trail has a small dip before continuing to curve up the cliffside toward the highest point at about 475 feet elevation.

picture of Devil’s Slide Trail

Devil’s Slide Trail

I found some interesting curly plants that made a pretty silhouette against the blue water.

image of curly plants silhouetted against the ocean

Curly plants silhouetted against the ocean

Just before the highest point on the trail I found some other interesting plants. For some reason, probably the beautiful blue ocean in the background, they reminded me of beach umbrellas. I don’t know what these plants actually are, but they seem to thrive in the microclimate.

photo of “beach umbrella” plants

“Beach umbrella” plants

Part way down the hill to the north trailhead I noticed a tiny landslide, a reminder of the ongoing natural forces in the area.

picture of tiny landslide at the side of the trail

Tiny landslide at the side of the trail

As the trail curves to the east approaching the north trailhead, there is a pretty view across Linda Mar toward Fifield and Sweeney Ridges, where I recently hiked.

image of Fifield and Sweeney Ridges behind Linda Mar

Fifield and Sweeney Ridges behind Linda Mar

From the north trailhead parking area there is a good view of the new CA-1 twin bridges leading to the tunnels.

photo of CA-1 tunnel approach

CA-1 tunnel approach

After checking out the north trailhead parking areas I began my return to the south trailhead. As is often the case, the views walking in one direction complement the views in the other direction. About ½ mile from the south trailhead there is a wonderful view of the slot I mentioned earlier. Devil’s Slide Rock is at the base of the cliff.

picture of view of Devil’s Slide

View of Devil’s Slide

Fairly close to the trailhead I was suddenly serenaded by a small bird in a nearby bush. I’m pretty sure it was a Bewick’s wren, which has a very pretty song.

image of Bewick’s wren

Bewick’s wren

After passing the trailhead I continued to walk down the access road to check out the parking area. Next to the pavement but before the cliff drop-off there were some poppies and several types of ice plant with different flowers. Here is one example.

photo of ice plant flower

Ice plant flower

Although this is a relatively short trail, at only 1.3 miles in length, it is a perfect venue for a leisurely walk. It was a treat to experience the stunning scenery of Devil’s Slide at a walking pace, without needing to keep two eyes on the road to avoid literally driving off the cliff into the ocean. It is worth noting that the Devil’s Slide Trail is part of the California Coastal Trail , which is envisioned as a 1,200 mile long network of trails along the California coastline.

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4 Responses to Devil’s Slide Trail

  1. Pingback: Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Sweeney Ridge | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail (southbound) | trailhiker

  3. Pingback: Golden Gate National Recreation Area – Milagra Ridge and Sweeney Ridge | trailhiker

  4. Pingback: Golden Gate National Recreation Area – Milagra Ridge | trailhiker

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