For years, Bay Area commuters driving on precarious Highway One would grip their steering wheels just a little tighter on their approach to "Devil's Slide" - a two-lane highway clinging to sturdy granite but beneath unsettled layers of shale and sandstone. Landslides often closed this important road that connects San Francisco with the peninsula.
After years of pushing away rubble from slides and squabbling over solutions, the Tom Lantos Tunnels finally opened in 2013. Commuters bid a bittersweet farewell to Devil's Slide, a risky route but one that offered stunning views. Luckily, the San Mateo County Parks Department was able to acquire funding to convert this segment of the old highway into a fantastic, multi-use, non-motorized trail.
Viewing area on Devil's Slide Trail — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
Anyone who has spent time in the Bay Area knows how chock-full the region is with amazing hiking, from the windy trails of Mt. Tam in Marin to the sunset strolls on San Francisco's own Ocean Beach; deciding where to hike can be as challenging as where to eat in San Francisco. What makes the Devil's Slide Trail worth the 20-minute drive south from the city is its accessibility and location.
As far as accessibility, this trail is a great option for those traveling with a large group or family, including children and even the elderly. Not only is the 1.3-mile trail evenly and widely paved, there are several viewing areas with benches. Even if you're not tired, leave aside time to sit and take in the extraordinary surroundings.
Start of Devil's Slide Trail — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
Besides the viewing areas, the trail is dotted with fascinating and informative plaques that detail the history, geology and wildlife in the area. Alert hikers might spot raptors overhead, such as turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons. Those who listen carefully might hear songbirds, such as the song sparrow, Bewick’s wren and golden-crowned sparrow. If gray whales are headed south for winter or north for summer feeding, there's no better perch to spot them than the Devil's Slide Trail.
In terms of location, the Devil's Slide Trail is part of the impressive network of California Coastal Trails. When finished, the California Coastal Trail will run over 1,000 miles between Oregon and Mexico, connecting travelers to California's magnificent oceanside landscapes.
View of the Pacific Ocean from Devil's Slide Trail — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
The "devil in the details" for such a perfect hike is a familiar one for Bay Area residents and visitors: parking. With only 44 parking spots available on either side of this popular trail, parking is a challenge. (The County is working on a trail connecting Devil’s Slide to the small town of Montara, which would open up more parking options.)
Trail visitors are encouraged to take public transit, especially on weekends. The nearby city of Pacifica operates a free weekend shuttle that runs to the north trailhead, on Saturdays and Sundays. The trail itself opens at 8 a.m. and closes at sundown.
If you're looking to get out of San Francisco for an afternoon or longer, head to Devil's Slide Trail for some fresh air, exercise and views of the Pacific that might be the highlight of your entire San Francisco trip.