Most people use sections of the Coast Trail - North instead of traveling end to end, but either method it is a delight. With planning and permits Coast Trail - North can be combined with Coast Trail - South
for a wonderfully scenic backpack trip.
From its southern end walking north, you'll surmount the only really taxing part of the trail at the outset. Climb steeply around a hillside ending with the trail's high point at the junction with Coast Glen Spur
trail. From here enjoy some flat travel though woods and fields before plunging steeply down an exposed ridge line towards the ocean.
After nearly reaching the edge of the cliffs overlooking Millers Point, the Coast Trail - North heads sharply inland again to meet the Bear Valley
Trail. Continue on the Coast Trail to one of its highlights: Arch Rock
. Take either of the signposted short spur trails (called Arch Rock
here) down the narrow isthmus to the point. (keep kids away from the cliff edges here). Some adventurous visitors time their visit for very low tide and low water levels in Coast Creek so that they can climb down to the beach and shimmy through Arch Rock's tunnel.
The next section of Coast Trail - North between the Sky
and Woodard Valley Trails is spectacular. It traces the coastline in and out of shallow valleys, staying above the beach on bluffs. The first spur trail (Kelham Beach
) on the left next to a huge eucalyptus tree leads to the wide, tan, sand oasis of -you guessed it- Kelham Beach.
Retrace your steps back to the Coast Trail and keep heading northwest to the turnoff for Sculptured Beach
. This appropriately named beach is known for its sandstone formations built by wind and ocean erosion into arches, tunnels and cliffs. Poke around in the creeks than come from inland and in the pools at waterline for starfish and other ocean life often caught on the beach here. The beach and fantastic cliffs to the south have additional rock formations and are accessible only during low tides.
Back on the Coast Trail - North, pass the junction with Woodward Valley
trail and continue to wind in and out of short valleys among the grassy bluffs. Soon, the beautiful sand of Santa Maria Beach becomes visible below and the Coast Camp for backpackers appears next to Santa Maria Creek. Parallel the ocean before turning inland for the easy trek back up to civilization on wide, sunny doubletrack trail.
Lupine, sea thrift, lizard-tail, coast fiddleneck and gumplant. Shorebirds, pelicans, seals. Elk sometimes near Limantour Road.