Farmer’s Daughter Trail Freshens the Familiar at Half Moon Bay

Wonder fades with familiarity. So, we decided to hike into the foothills above the Brussels sprouts fields east of Highway 1 and Half Moon Bay Airport last week for a fresh look at familiar Coastside landmarks. It was wonderful!

The Farmer’s Daughter Trail via the Spine Ridge Trail is a 3-mile loop in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills above Cabrillo Farms in Moss Beach, CA. Perhaps not coincidentally, the trail bears the same name as a nearby produce stand on Highway 1. But you can’t reach the trail from the farm stand. In fact, getting to the trail is complicated.

San Vicente Trail, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

The trail is one of many within a nearly 4,000-acre chunk of historic Rancho Corral de Tierra managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. At one time slated for development as a golf course surrounded by estate homes, the land was purchased in parcels by the Peninsula Open Space Trust beginning in 2001 and sold to the National Park Service in 2011. Yay POST!

Ember Ridge Equestrian Center, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

All the approaches to this particular trail involve walking through the Ember Ridge Equestrian Center, which welcomes through hikers and mountain bikers but requests that they park at the San Vicente Trail Head at Etheldore Street and Ranch Road in Moss Beach and hike the half mile or so to the ranch. We decided to walk out of our front door in Montara and pick up the San Vicente Trail at the end of Alamo Street.

Spine Trail Trailhead, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

When we reached the ranch, we simply followed the signs to the Spine Ridge Trail, a popular mountain biker track that helps turn the Farmer’s Daughter Trail into a loop. We knew we had arrived when we spotted a box with bells for mountain bikers to prevent tragic entanglements on the multi-use trails. The Farmer’s Daughter Trail begins not far up the hill on the right.

Cabrillo Farms, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

According to online sources highlighted here, the portion of Rancho Corral de Tierra extending along the coast from Martini Creek south past Montara and El Granada to Medio Creek was part of a Mexican land grant deeded to Francisco Guerro y Palomares in 1839. The politician and rancher was murdered in a dispute over the land in 1851, three years after Mexico ceded California to the United States. His widow married named James Denniston. A creek on the property is named for Denniston.

Farmer’s Daughter Trail, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

We had the trail all to ourselves on a weekday afternoon in early February. The single track winds through coastal chaparral mixed with stands of invasive Pampas grass — pretty standard for The Coastside. Shortly after the initial rise from the equestrian center, the trail runs through a shallow canyon where the park service has boxed and segmented the path with protective timbers to guard against wash-outs.

Cabrillo Farms, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

Spotting new terrain and familiar Coastside landmarks while looking west from a unique vantage point was a treat. For example, who knew there are two large farm ponds and additional acres of brussels sprouts hidden from view on Highway 1 by a stand of trees?

Cabrillo Farms, Half Moon Bay Airport, and Pillar Point Harbor and bluff. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

We also enjoyed new perspectives on Pillar Point Harbor at Half Moon Bay, Pillar Point Bluff and the ocean beyond, though The Geek was frustrated by the coastal haze as she tried to capture an image of the scene. Also, the yellow oxalis flowers populating the fallow Brussels sprouts field were not nearly as brilliant from our vantage point, as their blossoms had turned away to face the sun in the southwest.

The Farmers Daughter Trail with the Spine Trail following the crest of the hills beyond. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

Looking east, we spotted the primary arm of the Spine Ridge Trail as it dips and weaves deep into the Santa Cruz Mountains along the ridge between Denniston and San Vicente creeks. MontaraManDan is pretty sure his Coastal Trail cycling skills would not translate well on the Spine Trail. Alas, he may never have an opportunity to borrow a bell.

A 26 percent up-hill grade – hiking poles are nice – to a blind crest leads into a eucalyptus grove, where the Farmer’s Daughter trail officially ends and reconnects with the Spine Trail to complete the loop back to the equestrian center.

Farmer’s Daughter Trail, Moss Beach, CA. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

We’re certain the estate homes and golf course would have been lovely, but isn’t it nice the Rancho is open for everyone to enjoy.

4 thoughts on “Farmer’s Daughter Trail Freshens the Familiar at Half Moon Bay

    1. Thanks for checking us out, John! As noted in the blog, the trailhead is located in unincorporated Moss Beach and includes views of Half Moon Bay, so indeed the trail is in San Mateo County. No argument there. Montara Mountain, which tops out a few miles north of the trail at 1,900 feet, is considered the northern spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The blog describes the trail, which reaches 472 feet, as being in the “foothills” of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A foothill is defined as “a low hill at the base of a mountain or mountain range.” So, we would argue the description is accurate. Either way, it was an enjoyable hike. Cheers!

  1. re Farmer’s Daughter Trail – thanks so much for the great info! BTW there is a Farmer’s Daughter who runs the stand and the trail was indeed named for the stand. Lynda Santini’s dad, Bruno Santini, was a partner in Cabrillo Farms. She started the stand 40 years ago! Her daughter Mia Fogli Sautter and Mia’s husband Grant help out especially in October when Lynda sells pumpkins, many grown in the fields there. (I’m Grant’s mom).

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words and for sharing the additional info! Best wishes for a good crop and a strong season at the stand.

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