Hiking the Purisima Creek North Ridge Trail

Another nice hike on the peninsula in an open space preserve I didn’t realize existed. Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve is in the San Mateo area on the way to Half Moon Bay. There are several trails here and options for longer loops. We opted for the shorter 5 mile hike following the North Ridge Trail to its end and back.

Hike overview: ~5 mile total (out and back), 1360 ft elevation gain, approx 2-2.5 hours
Trail: North Ridge Trail

The trail is supposedly heavily trafficked, but there were very few others at 9am, and plenty of parking in the small lot at the trailhead. By the time we finished around 11am, the lot was full and there were quite a few cars parked along Hwy 35, so I advise going early.

Views of hills and the ocean in the distance

This hike starts at elevation and begins going downhill for almost 2 miles under the cover of redwoods. Eventually the trail opens up onto a sunny ridge heading towards a cluster of trees up on a hill. Here the trail gets a bit rocky and starts climbing uphill. Beware of the poison oak!

Uphill into that patch of trees

There are views of the ocean and all the surrounding hills. The trail eventually concludes at a sign marking “End of Trail” although it obviously continues past the sign. We kept going for a short distance and the trail is definitely not as maintained. Eventually there was a large patch of poison oak that we didn’t want to risk brushing past so we turned back around.

Continue past the end for an unmaintained rocky trail and poison oak!

Now it’s mostly uphill back to the trailhead. There are options to turn onto other trails if you’re in the mood for a full day of hiking. Instead, we headed back to the parking lot and drove the 30 minutes over to Half Moon Bay to have lunch and visit the beach.

Barbara’s Fishtrap, right on the beach

For lunch we tried the well-reviewed Barbara’s Fishtrap, ordering at the to-go window instead of waiting 45+ minutes for a table. The restaurant is right on the beach so we sat and ate on some rocks near the pier. We tried the fish & chips, zucchini tempura, and clam chowder. The fish was great but the fries and zucchini were average. The clam chowder is very different than the typical creamy chowder you normally find. I would call it a clam soup instead — still  tasty and worth a try.


Deep fried everything


After a walk down and around the pier we stopped by the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company before heading back home. There is an outdoor seating area which is dog friendly! It was busy with the lunch rush but we just went into the bar to sample some brews. There were about 10 different beers on tap, ranging from IPAs to a Strawberry Rhubarb Lager.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Co

Here’s a tip — there was TONS of traffic coming into HMB when we were leaving. Do this visit in the morning and leave early in the afternoon to avoid the rush of beachgoers.

Bonus: Spotted a sea lion hanging out with the fishermen




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