Bike Rides & Hikes

Weekend Hike: Butano State Park in Pescadero

Once you arrive at the beaches buttressing the tiny San Mateo County coastal town of Pescadero, once that briny aroma and wispy spray of surf envelopes your senses, heading inland away from this splendor may be the last thing on your mind.

You start the self-rationalizations.

There are lovely places to hike coastside, you know. No need to be so landlocked. Really. What say we do that 3-mile out-and-back on the Año Nuevo Point Trail, where you hear the sea elephants snort and frolic below? Or how about the Arroyo de los Frijoles Trail across Highway 1 from Bean Hollow beach?

No, our destination today is Butano State Park, a 3,500-acre gem tucked into the foothills about 4 miles southeast of Pescadero proper that is like entering a completely different ecosystem, lush and verdant.

Wait, didn’t we just leave the beach? Now, we’ve plunged into a sun-dappled redwood and Douglas fir forest, mossy fern-filled culverts and white alder trunks?

That’s the beauty of this part of the San Mateo coast: The eye candy never gets old, because it’s always changing. And you’re not fully leaving the ocean behind. A few viewing points along the ridgeline afford Board of Tourism-worthy vistas of the shoreline.

Butano State Park, Pescadero

Directions: Take I-80 to I-580 over the San Mateo Bridge on Highway 92. When Highway 92 ends in Half Moon Bay, turn left and head south 15 miles to Pescadero Road. Turn left and travel 2.5 miles to Cloverdale Road. Turn right and go 4.2 miles to Butano State Park. Turn left at the park entrance and travel three-tenths of a mile to the entrance station. Cost is $10.

FEATURED ROUTE (5 miles): From the entrance lot, start at the Año Nuevo Trail marker on the south side of the lot. After crossing a bridge, the trail curves left and uphill full of switchbacks. Some have wooden stairs, others just jutting roots. At 1.3 miles, turn right on the Olmo Fire Trail. Go downhill a a few hundred feet to the Gazos Trail on the right. Follow Gazos uphill for 0.8 miles. At the 2.1-mile mark, Gazos ends. Turn left on Olmo Fire Trail and go 0.4 miles before turning right on the Goat Hill Connector Trail. At 2.7 miles, veer left at a sign indicating the Olmo Fire Trail is ahead. In another 100 feet, turn right on Olmo and head downhill for about 1.2 miles. At a junction at the 3.5-mile mark, go left at a sign with an arrow that says “Trail to Entrance Road.” At 4 miles, turn left and go uphill on the Six Bridges Trail.

Toilets: Yes, at park entrance