Half Moon Bay State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Half Moon Bay State Park is a collection of four scenic beaches on the California coastline. Located just off Highway One, Half Moon Bay forms a two-mile stretch of white sand framed by the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains.

The cool waters aren’t ideal for swimming, but they provide the perfect setting for surfers. Expert surfers can tackle 20 foot waves at the famous Maverick’s surfing spot a mile offshore at Pillar Point. Beginners can enjoy more gentle waves at The Jetty near El Granada.

Hikers and bikers can enjoy four miles of the Coastside Trail that follows along the beach. Horseback riders can take advantage of a parallel trail that offers scenic ocean views.

The coastal area is rich in wildlife. Sea birds fly and float on the waves, and California sea lions and harbor seals play offshore. Some guests even catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales. Stop by the Half Moon Bay State Beach Visitor Center to learn more about the native wildlife and cultural history of the area.

Francis Beach Campground features 49 sites for RV camping that offer electrical hookups. Campers have access to coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets.

RV Rentals in Half Moon Bay State Park

Transportation in Half Moon Bay State Park

Driving

Half Moon Bay State Park is located in the city of Half Moon Bay, California. The park is 15 miles from San Mateo, California, and 30 miles from San Francisco, California. It is conveniently located off of Highway 1.

There are three entrances to the park. Visitors can enter at Francis Beach at the end of Kelly Avenue, through Venice Beach at the end of Venice Boulevard, and through Dunes Beach at the end of Young Avenue.

Vehicles may be parked at reserved campsites, but they must stay on the pavement and not obstruct the roadways. An extra vehicle parking lot is available on the east side of the campground for additional cars. There are also day use parking lots located at Francis, Venice, Dunes, Roosevelt, and Cowell Beaches.

A maximum speed limit of 15 mph is strictly enforced throughout the park and campground, but slower speeds are recommended in the campground area.

An all-terrain beach wheelchair can be borrowed to assist visitors with special needs at the Francis State Beach entrance station.

Visitors can also enter the park on bicycle or on foot. There is a designated hike and bike rest and camping area that allows hikers and bikers traveling up the coast to stay overnight. All bicyclists under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Half Moon Bay State Park

Campsites in Half Moon Bay State Park

Reservations camping

Francis Beach Campground

Francis Beach Campground features 49 sites for RV camping that offer electrical hookups. There is an RV dump station available for use in the park. Campers have access to coin-operated hot showers and flush toilets. Generators may be run during the day but must be turned off from 8 p.m. until 10 a.m. Dogs are allowed in the campground on a leash no longer than six feet and should be contained in a vehicle, tent, or RV at night. They are not allowed on the beach. Quiet hours in the park are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. During peak season, campsites may be reserved for up to 7 consecutive days. That limit is increased to 14 days November through the end of April.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Half Moon Bay State Park

In-Season

Picnicking

There’s nothing quite like a picnic at the beach. Enjoy the sun, surf, and sand while you snack at the designated picnic area at Francis Beach, which offers picnic tables overlooking the ocean, barbecue grills, and allows dogs on leash. Or, set out a picnic blanket at Venice, Dunes, Roosevelt, and Cowell beaches, which each have day-use parking lots and restrooms available for visitors. Fires are not allowed on any of the beaches in the park.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding enthusiasts can hop on a four mile horse trail that follows the eastern side of the coastline, stretching from Kelly Avenue north to Pillar Point and all the way south to Poplar Beach. The trail runs parallel to the 4-mile Coastside Trail used by hikers and bikers. Horses are not allowed on the beaches, but the horse trail still offers scenic beach views. Should you need a break, restrooms are available along the trail near the various parking areas.

Surfing

While the waters at Half Moon Bay State Park are typically too cold for swimming, they can offer some of the best surfing on the West Coast. Like any other surfing spot, conditions can be unpredictable, but expert surfers have been known to catch serious waves at the park’s southern end about a mile offshore at Pillar Point. There, waves can reach 20 feet high. Beginner surfers can find more gentle waves at The Jetty near El Granada.

Off-Season

Fishing

Fishing at Half Moon Bay State Park is a family-friendly activity any time of the year. Like many other beaches on the California coast, the beaches in the park are a popular location for surf fishing. Anglers of all ages can throw nets in the waves to catch runs of surf smelt. They are also known to catch a number of striped bass that often follow the smelt as they swim up and down the coast. All fishermen over the age of 16 need a valid California fishing license.

Hiking and Biking

Half Moon Bay State Park and its beaches are a popular thoroughfare for hikers and bikers traveling up the California coastline. The Coastside Trail extends for four miles along the eastern border of the beach. Hikers and bikers can take the trail from Kelly Avenue north to Pillar Point and south to Poplar Beach, offering scenic ocean views along the way. The park also offers an overnight hiking and biking area for coastline travelers to rest for the night.

Visitor Center

The visitor center at Half Moon Bay State Park is a perfect pit stop during your visit. The visitor center is open on the weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays, and like other state park centers, admission is free. Staff and park rangers teach guests about the unique beach ecosystem, native wildlife, and the cultural history of the area. The visitor center is also entirely ADA accessible, making it a great location for campers of all ages and abilities.

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