Cowell-Purisima Trail, just south of Half Moon Bay, is a 3.6-mile gently graded path that winds along bluffs where farmland meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s a part of the California Coastal Trail, which will one day span the entire length of the state. This area contains both beach and coastal scrub ecosystems. Keep your eyes open for harbor seals, pelicans, hawks and wildflowers along your way. Learn more about the natural features of the area »
Parking is available at both the northern and southern trailheads. Cowell Ranch Beach may be accessed from a stairway located a half mile from the northern parking lot—the beach and northern parking lot are managed by California State Parks. All other beach access from Cowell-Purisima Trail is prohibited to protect sensitive marine mammals, including harbor seals. Poison oak, ticks, and other hazards are common in off-trail areas.
Most of this trail is double-wide with a compacted granite surface with the exception of some steep terrain in the middle where the trail crosses Purisima Creek. View accessibility details »
Purisima Creek is the site of a former Ohlone village. The trail runs near the bygone Ocean Shore Railroad and Purisima Ghost Town. In 1988 the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) acquired the Cowell family ranch with a mission to protect the land from development. The trail was built in partnership with POST, the California State Coastal Conservancy, landowners, farmers and others. Management of the trail passed to San Mateo County Parks on February 1, 2021. Learn more about Cowell-Purisma Trail History »
- No dogs
- No drones
- The trail borders a protected agricultural area. No trespassing is allowed.
The trail will be periodically closed for weather conditions, maintenance, and agricultural purposes. Please check this page or San Mateo County Parks social media for trail advisories.