Devil’s Slide Trail was once a treacherous stretch of Highway 1 (just north of Pacifica) that was frequently closed due to landsides. Now it's been transformed into an exhilarating 1.3-mile multiuse trail. Perched several hundred feet high on the bluffs, the trail provides spectacular views on a clear day. Even when this part of the coast is blanketed...
Devil’s Slide Trail was once a treacherous stretch of Highway 1 (just north of Pacifica) that was frequently closed due to landsides. Now it's been transformed into an exhilarating 1.3-mile multiuse trail. Perched several hundred feet high on the bluffs, the trail provides spectacular views on a clear day. Even when this part of the coast is blanketed in fog—which it often is—the trail has a peaceful ambience that makes an outing here worthwhile. Layered clothing is a must year-round.
Repurposing the abandoned road into a trail (the road was rerouted inland through a new tunnel) required collaboration between many government agencies and organizations, and took years to be approved. The stretch is the newest segment of the Coastal Trail, which when finished will extend 1,200 miles from Oregon to Mexico. Amenities include restrooms, parking, water, benches, a few lookouts (no lowered viewing scope), and interpretive panels describing the area's history, the native people who lived in the area, the geology, and flora and fauna.
The steepest section has a 9 percent grade. It would be a challenging hike in a manual wheelchair even if you have good upper body strength, so you may want to hike this trail with someone who can help on the steep uphill. To avoid the steep stretch, you could start at the northern end and have someone pick you up at the southern lot.
Part of the wow factor of the Devil’s Slide Trail is how close you are to the ocean; this is a rare opportunity on the Northern California coast for people in wheelchairs. With steep cliffs ascending on the inland side and descending to the ocean on the other, much of the time I had the sensation of being on the edge of the world and isolated from civilization, despite a steady stream of hikers (surprisingly, I saw no cyclists). The paved trail consists of two 6-foot-wide bike lanes that travel in either direction and a 10-foot-wide lane alongside for walkers and horseback riders.
Starting from the northern trailhead, a gentle but long uphill takes you past scrub-covered hillsides; a smattering of ceanothus and pride of Madeira were in bloom during my April visit. A viewing area at the crest of the hill provides a welcome reprieve and is a good place to look for birds, including hawks, falcons, vultures, Brandt's cormmorants, and common murres. If you’re lucky you may get glimpses of whales or seals.
After a level stretch the trail again climbs gradually. Coasting downhill after the crest, look inland at the exposed weathered granite of Montara Mountain. A low barricade on the ocean side allows unobstructed views; to the north you can see past the Pedro Point Headlands to Mount Tamalpais and Point Reyes in Marin County. On a rocky ledge to the south you can see the remains of an old military bunker and tracking station that was part of a coastal defense network that stretched from Point Reyes to Half Moon Bay during the Cold War. In less than a quarter-mile the trail ends at the southern trailhead and parking lot.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Two parking areas serve the trail; one is immediately south of the Tom Lantos tunnel, the other just north of it. Both have upper and lower lots, each with one accessible space. The route from the lower lots to the trailhead is uphill. These lots fill quickly; I recommend riding the free shuttle from Pacifica: Sat.-Sun., 9 am-4 pm.