It's hard to believe that we hadn't tackled one of the most fog-haunted and scenic hills on The Circle circuit in 13 months. So what's the harm in hiking this breathtaking oceanside beauty two weeks in a row?
After getting the film crew familiar with the ways of The Circle last weekend on the steady slopes of Montara Mountain, we continue filming for the debut episode of our upcoming weekly TV series, Hills & Hops, in the same location on Sunday.
As we embark on our mission to spread the word about the Bay Area's world-class regional and state parks to a wider audience, we'll wrap up the filming for our inaugural show on the same mountain on which my 2015 memoir, "Climb. Descend. Repeat." begins and ends. Read the first three chapters here.
Before RSVPing, please be aware that everyone on filmed hikes will have to sign a release allowing Brirish Productions to use your image in the show. But fear not; this is going to be big fun. After getting acclimated, you won't even know that the cameras are there.
If you find yourself on our Waiting List, read this to pass the time.
LENGTH: 6.8 miles (round trip)
VERTICAL GAIN: 1,774 feet.
TYPE OF HIKE: Out-and-back, with the preponderance of the trail on fire roads. This hike is totally exposed to the elements.
PLANNED STOPS: The camera will introduce a new element to the hike, so we may be stopping to film stand-ups at various locations. But we'll do everything in our power not to slow down the pace. Our planned stop is for a 25-minute lunch near the peak (pictured above from our mid-year 2013 Montara hike).
TIME ESTIMATE (WITH STOPS): 3.75 hours.
From the north: From Highway 280 in San Francisco/Daly City, exit at Highway 1, drive through Pacifica and through the recently opened Devil's Slide Tunnel. The 30-car parking lot will be on the left after emerging from the tunnel:
From the south: From Highway 92 on the Peninsula, turn right at Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay and drive 9 miles - through HMB, El Granada, Moss Beach and Montara. The 30-car parking lot will be on your right. NOTE: This is not Montara State Beach (which you'll pass).
Montara Mountain rises above breathtaking Gray Whale Cove and the dramatic stretch of ocean between Pacifica and Moss Beach. It's just south of California's newest feat of engineering -- the 4,200-foot Devil's Slide Tunnel, which opened in March 2013 after six years of construction.
Our hike climbs steadily above the Pacific, at first on a crumbling, easy-grade ranch road, then, when the mountain reaches its steepest stretch, along a wide fire road that's perfect for walking astride your fellow Trustees. It’s here that you’ll be encountered, up-close and personal, by hawks, seabirds and the occasional condor -- many of them seemingly motionless in Montara's competing crosswinds.
But Montara's trademark is fog, dramatic and swift, moving at speeds that can be disconcerting and exhilarating -- making hikers feel as if they've taken wing. It's entirely possible to start the hike in glistening sun, be overrun by renegade, pea-soup fog in mid-mountain and then be basting in the sun's rays again at the top. It gives Montara a personality unique among Bay Area hikes.
The entire route consists of jaw-dropping ocean views ... although the peak, straddled by a fenced power plant, is a bit anti-climatic. No matter. It'll probably be shrouded in fog.
In The Circle of Trust & Beer, we seek two things: awesome locations and awesome beer. And The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company scores an A+ in both categories.
So, despite the fact that we hit HMBBC last month after our Purisma hike, we could think of no better place to kick off the beer segment on our debut episode of Hills & Hops, our weekly TV series featuring the best of Bay Area hikes and post-hike watering holes.
Go ahead. Start salivating about that beer now.