The muddy trail season is about to start as winter approaches, and the dusty creek beds soak up the rain and become babbling brooks. But hiking is still on the schedule; all you need is a rain jacket and no fear of getting your shoes dirty.
One of the Peninsula’s best winter-only attractions is Brooks Falls, located in in Pacifica. After a few good rains, the 175-foot waterfall will put on spectacular displays for hikers, so be sure to take a trip on a clear day in the coming months to take a look.
The 1150-acre San Pedro Valley Park is tucked away at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains and offers miles of hiking trails and lovely picnic grounds. San Pedro Creek winds its way around the park, famous for being the spawning ground for local steelhead. Stop by the visitor’s center (open weekends) for more information on the spawning season, which begins this month and continues through February.
To get to San Pedro Valley Park, take Highway 1 to the city of Pacifica and head east on Linda Mar Boulevard. Continue until Linda Mar ends and turn right, where you’ll immediately find the entrance to the park. An entrance fee of $6 is required for each car, so bring a picnic and stay for a while. With a full seven miles of trails for the hardiest hikers, you’ll find the fee a bargain.
Since you’re in a valley that experiences a lot of fog, you’ll find the trails lush and green, especially around San Pedro Creek. Picnic areas are located at both ends of the parking lot, and on the south side is the visitor’s center where trail information can be found.
Hop on Brooks Creek Loop Trail to head straight for the waterfall, or meander along the intersecting trails and enjoy the views. The Montara Mountain Trail, which intersects with the Brooks Creek Trail, climbs to the peak and gives superb ocean views.
Wildlife abounds on these trails, including rabbits, deer, huge banana slugs, and countless birds. On my visit I spotted some chickadees, jays and a large group of quail that nervously scattered as I rounded a corner.
This time, I decided to try out the Hazelnut Trail, a beautiful loop of 4.6 miles that takes you around the southern area of the park and through the eucalyptus grove. From the trail I could look up and to the south and see . Unlike that exposed mountaintop view, San Pedro Valley feels more like a rainforest nestled in the hillside. You feel like you’re a million miles away from civilization, especially on a foggy Pacifica morning.
Hiking can work up an appetite. On your way home, stop at my favorite Pacifica spot for Mexican food, Guerrero’s Taqueria, north on Highway 1 at Reina Del Mar Avenue. Get refreshed with a horchata and enjoy some huevos rancheros. You’ve earned it!