Half Moon Bay Gravel Title

Half Moon Bay Gravel Guide

Cover Photo: Andy Wong

With all the great experiences Gravel Bike California has come across recently, you would think that our state would run dry on amazing rides like our water supply, but I welcome the opportunity to be overwhelmed at any point.

I had seen through the Gravel Ride Podcast Slack group a number of amazing pics posted of Half Moon Bay Gravel by Andy and through some mutual connections we met up as he guided us around this thirty five mile loop.

Starting a few miles north of town our of Pillar Point State Park, the ride started out remarkably with a short climb that should be attainable by anyone with gears, to instant bluff views that wows you as the ocean clashes with the coastline below.

Half Moon Bay Gravel Guide (4K)

We quickly moved through the quaintness of the harbor along the bike path lining the shore, but the further south we went, the more we separated from foot traffic.

While the riding was obviously flat, the flavor got richer as we continued riding the path along the ledge weaving back and forth as you can only have this much fun here on a bike.

Our route briefly diverged away from the ocean dodging into a grove of banyan trees where I was surprised not just from the beauty of the limb system, but also how we were able to bob between the roots.

We returned towards the water and passing the Ritz Carlton into the Cowell Ranch area took our ride to 11 not only for the views of these Central Coast ridges, but also hitting an odd January bloom inspired by Van Gogh with these pungent yellows abound.

Half Moon Bay Gravel: 35.3 mi / 2,058 ft of gain

The trail meandered down into the mouth of Purisima Creek with our first real turns of the down, but exiting back up soon pointed us out of the park and onto Highway 1.

After scanting north, we turned east towards the hills through the former townsite of Purisima with rollers that only felt significant against the flatness we faced so far.

We soon made our way into the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve that is a second growth forest from logging taking place over one hundred years ago.

Rolling through the Banyan Trees (Photo: Andy Wong)

It was amazing to have another layer of magic as your neck cricks upward marveling at this natural cathedral.

The dirt road followed the waterway which was nice and stable for the two miles we biked, but turned around at the first switchback to avoid the steeper last two miles that take you up to Skyline Blvd in the interest of time.

Riding down was a pure pleasure as it was graded properly for an exhilarating ride and plenty of visual space to slow down for hikers.

Into Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve (Photo: Andy Wong)

Exiting the preserve, we chose the split to the right up Higgins Canyon Road which was our steepest effort of the day, but very manageable staying a steady 7% for less than a mile.

The descent was better suited on the north side of the peak containing wide sweeping curves where you rarely touch the brakes.

Making it back to Highway 1, we grabbed a hearty lunch along the way before making a straight shot back to the start.

This has to be one of my favorite routes as it’s one of the most accessible with minimal grades and ideal surfaces, but more importantly an amazing array of scenery from the coast to the redwoods.