Monday, April 7, 2014

Heavenly Devil's Slide

Sunny but hazy day on the San Mateo Coast

It used to be that if you drove along Devil's Slide on HWY 1 on the San Mateo coast, you were taking your life in your own hands. It's hard to find exact statistics, but one article from the Tuscaloosa News dated Aug 20, 1967, stated that the Pacifica Fire Dept. "recovered 28 bodies in a decade and rescued more than 60 injured persons since 1963." Since then, there have been many more auto fatalities and accidents, climbing accidents and landslides. But hopefully no more!

The new and improved Devil's Slide opened to the public - pedestrians and bikers only - at the end of March, 2014.  Auto traffic is now re-routed through the Tom Lantos Tunnels, which run through the San Pedro Mountain, between the towns of Montara and Pacific, CA.

View of the Tom Lantos Tunnels, north end of the trail

This morning I drove up to Devil's Slide to check it out for myself. Driving north on HWY 1 from Half Moon Bay, I didn't see any signs directing me to Devil's Slide. But when I got to a fork where you could go right through the Lantos Tunnels or left to a small parking lot, it was easy to decide to go left. There was still no signage but there was a newly paved trail, restroom and water fountains. Maybe they'll add the sign in time and yes, it was Devil's Slide.

Not a good photo but you can see that the road is nicely paved.

The trail is 1.3 miles long and features beautiful views of the San Mateo coast. There are 3' concrete barriers protecting visitors from cliff drop offs, and netting that helps secure parts of the inland side from rock falls. I'm making it sound scarier than it is! This is a great trail for young kids. You don't need to walk the whole thing to enjoy beautiful views. Most of the trail is wheel chair accessible, though pushing would be required for some of the steep parts.

Fun Fact: A 1960 movie called Portrait in Black, had a scene filmed at Devil's Slide in which a car was pushed off the cliff.

No wonder driving here was dangerous!

There is quite a bit of educational signage, some nice benches for relaxing, and for 50 cents you can look through an observational telescope. It is very convenient that there are restrooms and water fountains at each end of the trail. But I do recommend carrying your own water as the black pavement and sunshine can make you pretty thirsty.

It was a great morning. The sun was shining, it was almost too hot, and there was a refreshing breeze blowing in from the ocean. I saw a Grey Whale spout a few times, a rookery of birds on a faraway rock (Common Murres?), song birds, sea gulls, pelicans and even a lizard. I don't know if it was the beautiful scenery or the newness of the road, but practically every walker greeted me with a smile or a hello. I also saw one friendly ranger who offered me the use of his binoculars.

Bird Rookery

The only negative that occurred was when I saw a mother letting her toddler son walk on the concrete barrier, while she kind of held his hand. While she was talking to her friend, her son stepped off the barrier and took a couple of steps toward the edge. It wasn't a close call, but I did say to her, "you know that's a sheer drop off right?" She ignored me but immediately called back her son and put him safely on the ground. Parents - please don't risk your children's lives and don't teach them that it's okay to ignore a safety barrier; I mean - Duh!
Okay, done with my little rant.

Steep drop offs

I bet sunset would be beautiful here!

So I highly recommend this short hike. You can walk it quickly or take as much time as you want. Parking (at both sides of the trail) is limited to 40 vehicles, so they recommend taking a weekend shuttle from Pacifica or riding the Sam Trans Rt.17 bus. Because I went up on a weekday morning, I lucked out and found a parking space.

And when you're done, head south a couple of miles to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve for some fun tide pool exploration. Have fun!


Anonymous said...

can't wait to see it soon!! Thank you Karen.....

Karen Gough said...

You are welcome! Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I walked the Devil Slide trail with our daughter Karen and it proved to be as interesting and as pretty as she wrote in her blog.

Karen Gough said...

I'm so glad you both enjoyed the walk, so did I! Thanks for commenting.