San Pedro Rock juts stubbornly from the California coastline at Pacifica. It beckons to southbound drivers on Highway 1 but is impossible to reach without getting your feet wet. We settled for a new perspective on the iconic rock from the “well loved” trail to Pedro Point.
The Hiking Project reports that you can hike to the rock and explore its caves and tidepools during extreme negative tides. Timing is imperative. Visitors must be off the rock and across the public sand below the high tide line at the private Shelter Cove community before the ocean rolls back in. But racing the tide to scramble across a coastal rock is not our thing. Too many people get washed out to sea by sneaker waves and rip tides along the coast of Northern California.
We do like a nice view, however, so we picked a quiet weekday for the occasionally steep 2.4-mile hike up the busy South Ridge Trail from the Devil’s Slide Trail north parking lot to Pedro Point and back.
The South Ridge Trail is heavily used, especially on weekends. The Pacifica Land Trust, steward of the 255-acre parcel since 1992, works diligently to maintain the trails, restore native plants and repair erosion and related damage caused by past off-road vehicle use.
Still, we enjoyed new perspectives of the Pacific Ocean to the west, the twin bores of the Tom Lantos Tunnels to the south, the beaches stretching north toward San Francisco and Pacifica’s Linda Mar neighborhoods as they snake eastward into the northern fringe of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The local Safeway never looked so good!
We caught our first overhead view of San Pedro Rock shortly after we transitioned to the Bluff Trail, which runs along the headlands to Pedro Point. MontaraManDan posited that from this perspective the rock looks like the wreckage of an ancient alien spacecraft half buried in the shallows just off the point. That, or Abraham Lincoln’s face in repose. The Geek blinked slowly, smiled patiently and snapped a picture.
The final leg of the trail involves a short but extreme and slippery dip and return before reaching the point. Yet another time MontaraManDan and The Geek wished they had brought their trekking poles on a local hike.
The point offers a nice view of the rustic and secluded Shelter Cove community directly below, and another sweeping panorama of the ocean, beaches and Pacifica sprawl. Safeway, too. But alas, San Pedro rock is not visible from the point itself. The view is blocked by a narrow and rocky off-trail outcropping that we had no desire to navigate. The overhead shots we’ve seen online must have been taken by drone, also not our thing.
So, we headed back to the car. For a bit of variety, we looped back to the parking lot via the Arroyo Trail, a narrower and cooler walk through the eucalyptus grove that also shades Highway 1 as it winds from Linda Mar to the Tom Lantos Tunnels, gateway to The Coastside communities to the south.
Are there better coastal hikes in the region? Definitely. Better views? Yep. But not if you want a new perspective on San Pedro Rock and dry feet.