Trekking Pacifica's Terrific Mori Trail
By Kathy Chin Leong
If you have never been to Pacifica, and only passed the community on your way to San Francisco, it's time to make a U-turn and drive down to this amazing community that features a local favorite: the Mori Trail
Views, views, views. Not only do you gain an unobscured panorama of the Pacific Ocean, the calorie burn is real on this breathtaking moderate, 2.5 mile loop hike. It is linked with a necklace of smaller trails, so you can nail a few or all of them in a morning.
We love the fact that there's always free parking; no entrance fee, either. Plan on giving yourself one hour at least for the hike, which includes stopping to take photos. I usually make this a half-day of exploration, for connecting hikes and paths can take you both north and south. You can go to the Rocky Point Beach afterwards to picnic.
The small downtown with a couple of gift shops, restaurants, coffee and pastry shops, is an enjoyable, low-key place to look around.
WHAT TO SEE
When I first hiked Mori Point several years ago, I was incredulous. “Where have I been all my life? Why haven’t I come here before?” As an outdoors zealot and Bay Area native, I could not believe I never heard of Mori Point, and simply wrote off Pacifica as “that foggy town” and nothing more.
If you love hiking and oceanscapes, this 110-acre destination offers the best of the best. It is the perfect combination of surf and turf. While online commentators complain that is heavily trafficked with local Pacificans, I beg to differ.
I have come at least ten times, and each time I never faced a crowd. Perhaps what is most remarkable about the hike itself is that it is breathtaking the entire distance. Some trails in other places force you to tough it out before it gets really spectacular, but at Mori Point, your senses come alive.
It is nature’s cornucopia overflowing with crashing waves, pointy sea stacks, ancient cliffs, and wildflowers gone amuck. Since Pacifica is infamous for its fog, the best time to come is not in the summer, but in the spring or fall when days are clear. I’ve introduced family members and friends who gawk in wonderment at such a discovery.
Acquired by the National Park Service in 2004, it is named after Stephani Mori, an Italian immigrant who came in the 1870s, and owned a farm and ranch house on this very property. The trail starts off of Bradley Avenue, and the climb upwards begins almost immediately.
Within a few feet, you have a choice to go on the Upper Mori or on the Lower Mori Trail, designated by a boardwalk to the right, and that’s where it gets equally exciting. You see, the well-maintained boardwalk is ideal for those in wheelchairs or folks who cannot do hills. When the boardwalk ends, it empties onto a solid dirt path where families bring tricycles and strollers to roll along the beach. A municipal pier sits along the pathway, and you’ll see folks fishing to pass the time. The million dollar snapshot is at the tip of the upper Mori Point Headlands trail.
The actual point is a finger of land that juts out over the ocean. It gets breezy, so wear layers and keep a good grip on your kids. The grand fisheye vista of grassy jagged cliffs and pocket beaches makes you feel as small as a pin dot in comparison. Connecting the Mori Point Headlands is the Upper Mori Point Trail with steep steps that go straight to the top of the mountain. If you want to avoid the steps, take the longer (less steep) more circuitous route closer to the water.
Decades earlier, the area was a limestone quarry, and on this stretch you still see chunks of cement ruins. Today, they have been artfully spray painted, so you’ll be tempted to take an Instagram photo, using the remnants as your backdrop.
At the base of the hike is the narrow Liberty Garden dedicated to the victims of 9/11. Started by local resident Mike Mooney who wanted a way to deal with his grief, it is tended by himself and volunteers who sign up to care for their own three-foot patch of earth. All are invited to enjoy the array of American flags, signage and flowers and plants.The parking lot on Bradley Avenue fills up fast. I suggest buying a coffee at the caboose-turned-java joint at Vallemar Station shopping center, then you won’t feel guilty about parking there for the rest of your stay.
We are blessed to have public access to Mori Point, and I don’t take it for granted. Mori Point could have been bulldozed to become yet another suburb or shopping mall. In the 1980s, the City Council approved a developer’s self-aggrandizing vision to erect single family homes, a horse arena, hotel and conference center.
Angered by the thought of losing this natural treasure, the Pacificans for Mori Point battled the council filing a lawsuit to block the sale. All this came to a stalemate … for decades. Finally, several conservancy groups banded together, raising funds to purchase the land. They gifted it to the federal government in 2002. Two years later, it was became the newest family member of parks in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
WHEN YOU GO...
Location: South end of Bradford Way, west of Highway One
Hours: Open daily until sunset