Place: Pillar Point Bluff and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Half Moon Bay, California
Coordinates (Jean Lauer Trailhead): 37.511367, -122.501218
Length: about 3 miles
Late summer season in the Bay Area always draws me towards the ocean. The Peninsula coastline is THE place to go for a fine outdoors escape from the inland heat. Pillar Point Bluff in San Mateo County is a great place to go alone or with the family for a nice coastal hike. It's a small park, with a trail system that can be hiked in just a couple of hours. That wouldn't be a good idea, though, because what there is to see in this park takes way more time than that. A perfectly good reason for repeated visits, in my humble opinion.
I hiked at Pillar Point Bluff several times within the past couple of months, the same trail each time, with some minor variations.
There are a few parking options near Pillar Point Bluff. The most popular is the one near the Mavericks Beach, and it is really difficult to find a spot there during weekends, particularly nice weekends.
|Jean Lauer Trailhead|
|Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare)|
Mid hill, right by the trail, there are a few mugwort plants. I don't see them in bloom very often, so I took the opportunity to photograph the inflorescence. It would have been great if I could also capture the wonderful aromatic fragrance of their foliage!
|Douglas' Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana)|
|A patch of common yarrow in the midst of the low, coastal scrub.|
|Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)|
|Common Yarrow, pink (Achillea millefolium), approached by a hoverfly|
|Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense)|
|Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis)|
|A Cyclosa spider building its hideout|
|Harbor seals on the rocks.|
These rocks are more than a bed, they are also a safe haven. One of the seals we saw on those rocks had just escaped a shark attack. We hope it recovered.
|Sharkbait. A young Harbor Seal that survived a shark attack.|
|Sharing the bed: Harbor Seals and Brown Pelicans|
|Sea Palm Kelp (Postelsia palmaeformis)|
|California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)|
|Coastal Gumweed (Grindelia stricta)|
|Purple Pampas Grass (Cortaderia jubata)|
Not all the worthy sights meant looking down, though. Marine birds were flying back and forth along the coastline. A vulture sometimes followed suit.
There is, however, a trail that leads down the more manageable section of the cliff, to Russ' Cove and Mavericks Beach.
|A view at the sea palm kelp, down at Ross' Cove|
Once up, though, The trail continues through the scrub in a mild slope downward, to West Point Avenue.
Nice flowers there too.
|Coast Dudleya (Dudleya farinosa)|
|Wild Carrot(?) seeds|
|Coast Range Fence Lizard|
The painting portrays Half Moon Bay.
Between the cypress trees and the harbor there is a green area of wetland with alkali weed and little jewel-like ponds. This is Pillar Point Marsh.
That area is one of the richest and most beautiful tide-pooling areas I've been to in California. With careful planning, most of my hikes there have been in perfect timing with the low tide. The amazing wildlife I've seen there merits its own blog post: the next one will be dedicated solely to that little trail and the tide pool prize at its end.
|Pillar Point Marsh|
|Common Evening Primerose (Oenothera elata)|
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plans Society for their help in identifying plants!