Hike a Closed Section of Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide Trail

Pacifica, Ca – Once a troublesome segment of highway, Devil’s Slide Trail was converted into a recreational trail in 2014. Visit the area to see awesome seabirds and raptors, and to learn more about the Common Murre Restoration Project that’s active in the area.

Species to Look Out For

Common murre circle

Common Murre

About the Park

Pacifica, Ca – Segment of California Coastal Trail

Science Spotlight: Common Murre Restoration at Egg Rock

Common murres are gorgeous and vaguely penguin-looking seabirds. Common murres actively breed in colonies at Egg Rock, which is visible from Devil’s Slide Trail.

The Egg Rock colony was estimated to have 3,000 birds in the early 1980’s; however, disaster struck with the 1986 Apex Houston oil spill. The oil spill delivered a fatal blow to the common murre population, eliminating the birds at Egg Rock. Scientists, determined not to let the population of common murres vanish, formed the Common Murre Restoration Project. The project, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, set out to restore the Egg Rock population that was wiped out during the oil spill. It also sought to increase the numbers of common murres and other seabirds across Central California.

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Egg Rock, visible just offshore of the Devil’s Slide Trail.

To restore murres, the project employed social attraction techniques. Social attraction, first developed by Project Puffin to restore breeding Atlantic puffin populations, works by tricking birds into thinking that other individuals of the same species are already present at a specific location. This incentivizes breeding birds to set up their nests at that location.

To trick the common murres at Egg Rock, scientists placed common murre decoys on the island, played common murre sounds from speakers, and placed mirrors at the site to create the illusion of movement to birds flying overhead. And the result? The murre breeding colony on Egg Rock has been restored, and has increased every year since the project’s implementation in 1996.

To read more about common murres and their restoration around Egg Rock at Devil’s Slide, check out the Bay Area Naturalist article “Social Attraction: The Story of California’s Common Murres“.

Park History

Devil’s Slide Trail is a segment that was formerly part of scenic Highway 1. Frequent landslides and closures made this a particularly troublesome segment of highway, prompting talk of opening an alternative route over Montara Mountain. Local public outcry strongly opposed the conversion of the mountain into a highway, and grassroots efforts worked to advocate for the opening of a tunnel instead. In a sweeping success, Tom Lantos Tunnels opened in 2013, protecting the mountain and allowing the scenic views of our coast to be preserved.

In 2014, the Devil’s Slide segment of Highway 1 was converted into a recreational trail for joggers, bikers, and hikers. The trail is also a part of the California Coastal Trail, which will extend 1,200 miles along the coast from Mexico to Oregon once completed.

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Sedimentary rock formation along the Devil’s Slide Trail.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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The Geology Rocks at Rodeo Beach South

Mill Valley, Ca – Need a secluded spot to relax? Check out Rodeo Beach South, a short hike through a beautiful landscape to a beautiful beach. Plus, it’s right near Point Bonita, making this an easy hiking double feature.

About the Park

Mill Valley, Ca – Region of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area

Science Spotlight: Rodeo Beach Geology

When I walk along California’s beaches, I tend to be so captivated by the landscapes around me that I find it easy to ignore the beauty beneath my feet. While every beach has some beautiful geological history to offer, Rodeo Beach stands unique amongst other beaches. Its beautiful, coarse, and pebble-dotted sands reflect a rich geological history.

Remember learning about the 3 major rock families when in elementary school science? As a refresher, rocks can be categorized based on the way in which they are formed. The three rock families are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock – and it just so happens that you can find all three on Rodeo Beach, making it a gem in terms of California geology.

Looking at the beach geology more granularly, one source reports that Rodeo Beach sands are composed of the following: red and green chert (about 55%), volcanic rock fragments such as pillow basalts (about 30%), lesser amounts of graywacke sandstone (about 10%) and finer mineral grain, such as feldspar and hornblende (about 5%).

Carnelian, although representing a small percentage of the rock composition, is another notable find on Rodeo Beach. These semi-precious gemstones are bright to reddish-orange in color. These beach gems are formed when small pockets, or vesicles, of silica appear within cooling lava. Years of collecting have negatively impacted the amount of carnelian found on Rodeo Beach, so be sure to refrain from collecting.

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© David Abercrombie, 2014, Flickr Album, some rights reserved.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

We recommend visiting the southern tip of Rodeo Beach since it’s a skip, hop, and a jump away from Point Bonita. Regardless of the area that you visit, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for shorebirds dotting the beaches, mats of invasive ice plants, and the mosaic of different rocks that make up the sand.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Explore a Lighthouse at Point Bonita

Sausalito, Ca – A jewel of the North Bay, the Point Bonita Lighthouse rests as a beautiful and historic part of California. 

Sausalito, Ca – Region of Golden Gate National Recreational Area

About the Park

Science Spotlight: Invasive Ice Plants

When making the trek up to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, it’s hard to miss the dense carpets of dark green succulent. Introduced to California in the 1900’s to help control erosion, the South African-native ice plant is beginning to overstay its welcome. A common sight along California’s coastal areas, the ice plant has been deemed invasive on stretches of almost all of California’s coast.

Although it’s a decorative and beautiful flowering succulent, it’s causing major problems for the native California plants that it’s outcompeting. Once established, the ice plant forms dense mats which force out native plants and alter the soil composition.

Its root system is shallow, making localized control possible. However, the ice plant is so widespread that it’s unrealistic to tackle it all in one swoop. For more information on how you can help control the problem, check out this site which helps provide resources to volunteers.

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A carpet of Ice Plants; photo from Lighthouse Field State Beach.

Park History

The discovery of gold in 1848 transformed the San Francisco area – what was once a city of 900 people quickly grew to over 20,000. To meet the needs of a booming population, the area began construction of lighthouses around the bay to lead the way for settlers. Point Bonita, completed in 1855, was the third lighthouse on the west coast. It remains still in operation today as a part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

Before visiting, please note that the lighthouse is only open for visiting Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m, so plan accordingly.

Point Bonita Lighthouse is a 1 mile, out-and-back trail that winds around beautiful coastline to the lighthouse. During your visit, be sure to enter the lighthouse.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Enjoy Scenic Bluffs at Wilder Ranch State Park

Santa Cruz, Ca – Winding trails which offer spectacular views of coastal bluffs and beaches make Wilder Ranch an unforgettable hiking spot. Plus, there’s incredible birdwatching to boot.

Species to Look Out For

Western Snowy Plover Circle

Western Snowy Plover

About the Park

Santa Cruz, Ca – State Park

Science Spotlight: Snowy Plovers Nesting at Wilder Ranch

Wilder Beach Nature Preserve, visible from the trails of Wilder Ranch State Park, is closed to the public from entry. The closure is for good reason – down on the beach sand, a threatened species of shorebird nests.

The western snowy plover requires sandy beaches with low vegetation to allow them to camouflage and see predators. These plovers prefer the beach zones that are also most popular to humans, and their breeding season (March – September) coincides with the period of highest beach use by humans. Disruption of western snowy plovers by human activities can result in decreased breeding success and nest site abandonment. This, along with the loss of healthy beach habitats, has resulted in the decline in western snowy plover populations.

Snowy Plovers
© Mike Baird, 2010, Flickr Photo Album, some rights reserved.

While it is estimated that their populations once numbered in the thousands, approximately 2,000 individuals are estimated to remain on our coasts today. The species was listed as federally threatened in 1993, and several initiatives on California’s beaches are actively working to restore their populations.

Park History

Wilder Ranch State Park was originally home to the Ohlone Native Americans. Their centuries of living on the land was cut short by the 1776 expeditions of Gaspar de Portolá, who transformed the area under Spanish control.

In the mid-1870’s, a portion of the land was purchased to be made into a creamery. From there, it transitioned to the control of the Wilder family. The land remained under the Wilder family’s control until 1969, when their financial circumstances resulted in a loss of the property. The land was considered for housing development, but a vote by the citizens of Santa Cruz resulted in its acquisition by the California State Park system in 1974. Thus, the area’s natural areas and rich history remain protected.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is a $10 vehicle day-use fee. Dogs are not allowed at the park.

We recommend taking the Old Landing Cove Trail (2.0 Miles), which winds easily along the coastline, offering spectacular views of coastal bluffs to the left and shrubbery to the right. If you take this trail, be sure to be on the lookout for shorebirds – especially at the viewing platform towards the beginning of the Old Landing Cove Trail.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Go Tidepooling at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Moss Beach, Ca – Access to some of California’s amazing Pacific tidepools is an incredible opportunity, and it’s only a 1-hour drive from the heart of the Silicon Valley. Check the tide schedule and grab your waterproof boots – it’s giant green anemone time.

About the Park

Moss Beach, Ca – Marine Reserve

Science Spotlight: Giant Green Anemones

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is host to hundreds of species of animals and algae – making the reserve’s tidepools some of the most species-diverse and accessible tidepools in the state.

In the midst of this amazing diversity, one tidepool creature is especially eye-grabbing: the giant green anemone. When fully outstretched, they look like beautiful sea flowers basking in the sunlight. Even when closed they are fun to look at, as they resemble olive-colored, slimy donuts.

The giant green anemone’s captivating exterior actually represents the symbiotic relationship between two organisms: the anemone itself and algae. The algae gain the benefits of a shelter from predators, whereas the anemone gains some extra food and oxygen produced by the algae. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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Sunburst anemone at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Park History

From as early as 1911, scientists and naturalists have been visiting these tidepools to witness the amazing diversity of invertebrates/vertebrates. As collections from visits began to deplete the natural resource, the county of San Mateo proposed that the area be acquired by the state for protection. The reserve is now protected under the Marine Resources Protection Act of 1990.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed within the park.

Before hiking, be sure to check the tidal chart for the area. The tide pools are best when viewed at a tide of 1′ or less. Plan your trip around these times. During your visit, please be sure to respect the area and its future patrons. Do not harm any wildlife or remove any artifacts during your visit.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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See Wintering Monarchs at Lighthouse Field State Beach

Santa Cruz, Ca – From mid-October to mid-February, the trees in this park are shelter to thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies. Any other month of the year, this park offers beautiful sunset views and a glimpse at Santa Cruz’s radical surf history.

Species to Look Out For

monarch circle

Monarch Butterfly

About the Park

Santa Cruz, Ca – State Beach

Science Spotlight: Wintering Monarch Butterflies

Just like birds, there is one butterfly that make an annual migration to warmer temperatures. Each year, the monarch butterfly makes its way south to escape freezing temperatures.

Monarchs use environmental cues such as shortened days and colder temperatures to signal that the migration is ready to begin. Two populations of monarch butterflies migrate: one population east of the Rocky Mountains, and one to the west. The eastern population travels all the way down to Central Mexico, with some individuals traveling as far as 3,000 miles.

The western population has an overwintering site right in Santa Cruz at Lighthouse Field State Beach. There, in down the path in an unassuming field, hundreds of monarchs congregate together to stay warm.

Yet this amazing phenomenon faces a sad reality: monarchs have faced declines over the past 20 years, and 2018 marked the lowest count in 5 years for the California population. Factors such as loss of flowers, degradation of stopover sites along their migration, and the loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico contribute to their decline. For more information on the monarch butterfly migration and their decline, check out our article.

Overwintering Monarch Butterflies
© 2011, Photo Library (Flickr), some rights reserved.

Park History

Aside from being an incredible beacon for California natural history, the state beach is home to California’s first surfing museum in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.

Visit the Park

Before visiting, please note that the monarch butterflies are only present from mid-October to mid-February.

During your visit, we recommend checking out the monarch butterflies in the grove of trees out in the field. We also recommend stopping by the lighthouse and surfing museum across the street from the parking lot, as well as scenic views of surfers catching waves off the coast.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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