Monarch Butterfly Walk

walking tour routeThis walk combines coastal fishing and surf towns with flat boardwalk and beachside walking in Half Moon Bay and Pacifica with rugged trails over pacific ocean hanging cliffs in between. You will walk along remote cliffs, expansive beaches, and through bird and wildlife sanctuaries in between the beach town hamlets of Bolinas, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach and on to Olema. You will crest the coastal mountains, and keep a view of the deep blue Pacific Ocean, with it’s thunderous crashing waves and imposing rock outcroppings. This is the most complete walking experience of the California Coast that is offered by any tour company.

The Monarch Butterfly migrates from Mexico to Northern Canada along the coast.  You will follow part of their path, and likely see some along your way. This coastal walk runs along the pacific ocean of California from Half Moon Bay, along seaside fishing ports and former railroad/logging towns. It starts off mostly flat with light hills to get your legs ready for traversing Mount Tamalpais on the second half of the journey – after a rest in San Francisco

On your city break, you can chose from a menu of free city tours (in our Trip Guide) and take in some big city nightlife, and world-class shows and museums.

Continuing north along the coast, across the golden gate bridge to getaway towns of the rich and famous, ending at the majestic Point Reyes National Seashore. The second part of the route follows a meandering course through fragrant coastal Chaparral, pine forests and redwoods and hugging the famous San Andreas Fault line within gorgeous Marin County.

  • The longest self-guided walking tour experience on the California Coast.
  • Coastal walking along the pacific ocean criss-crossing historic route 1 from Half Moon Bay through Montara, Pacifica, San Francisco, West Marin and on to Point Reyes on the Grey Whale Route
  • Route: Half Moon Bay-Montara-Pacifica-Ocean Beach-SF-Sausalito-Muir Beach-Stinson Beach-Olema-Inverness.
  • 12 days/11 nights.

Reserve this walk

Daily Walking Distances and Elevation

Grey Whale Elevation Profile

(NOTE THE ELEVATION SCALE CHANGE IN THE TWO GRAPHS ABOVE, also these are not exact. Estimates from Google Earth Path)

Trip Schedule
Day 1

Arrive in Half Moon BayIMG_7310

Day 2

Half Moon Bay to Montara
12 miles ( km)

Day 3

Montara to Pacifica
7 miles (km)

Day 4
Pacifica to SW San Francisco/Ocean Beach

9 Miles (km)

Day 5&6
SW to Central SF – 2 nights, Day walk options
9 miles (km)

Day 7
San Francisco to Sausalito
7-13 miles (11-20km)

Day 8
Sausalito to Muir Beach
8-14 miles (11-22km)

Day 9
Muir Beach to Stinson Beach
8 Miles (13km)

Day 10
Stinson Beach to Olema
10-17 miles (15-27km)

Day 11
Olema to Inverness
7-10 miles (11-16km)

Day 12
Inverness to San Francisco
Suggested Day Hikes (optional)

*Variable distance trail options are provided in your Trip Guide

Walking Itinerary Descriptions

Arrive in Half Moon Bay – Day 1

Relax into this interesting town on historic route Highway 1 – filled with the riches from San Francisco – Luxury resorts, World class Golfing, home of Mavericks big wave surf spot. Don’t miss the cute town center where you’ll be staying and a healthy, active, outdoorsy population of SF commuters, surfers, farmers and fisherwomen (and men). Best places to go provided in the Trip Packet (no commission, just locals tips).

Half Moon Bay  to Montara – Day 2

Mostly flat walking today along the beach and public trails. Interesting sights and sounds as you meander up through the harbor along crab shacks & expansive beaches. This small one lighthouse seaside town follows a jagged rocky coastline and runs through towns Moss beach & Princeton-by-the-sea. We recommend you lunch at a certain haunted ocean view brewery. You will walk along this and old historic route 1 before reaching your adorable Inn, tucked in a quiet neighborhood Inn – enthusiastically owned and operated by former pilots and current aspiring chefs. Read more about this in our accommodations page.

Montara to Pacifica – Day 3

Only steps from your inn begins the San Pedro mountain trail. Depending on the season, you are sure to see various flowering plants – like Indian Paintbrush, Sticky Monkey Flower and animals such as red-tailed hawks, shorebirds, Deer, squirrels, bobcats and the like. At the top of the mountain is gorgeous views of the ocean and rolling coastal mountains. It’s a gorgeous hike up and over, descending into the town of Pacifica. You’ll walk along a long, expansive sandy beach watching surfers galore, arriving at your Hotel on the beach. Take a Jacuzzi or swim in the heated pool, or have a drink in the bar and watch the spectacular sunset show.

Pacifica to South West San Francisco (Ocean Beach)  – Day 4

Wake up next to famous Ocean Beach – with impressive wave action, very strong currents and thus world-class surfing happening pretty much everyday. Meet the city’s morning joggers, dog walkers at this popular place. Today’s walk takes you along stretches of the coastline. By now you’ve gotten your stride int he daily walking routine. You’ll see more humans as you get closer to the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco. Stay at San Francisco’s first ever motel. It has been restored to a very impressive Art Deco classic.  Every detail reminds you of the Mad Men Era.

SW San Francisco to Central San Francisco – Day 5

Flat, exciting city walking today through neighborhoods with vistas of the ocean. Many opportunities to stop into a shop or boutique, ride a muni car, visit a museum, have some tapas, etc. The city is your oyster! Our trip guide will keep you updated on what you’re seeing and the best places to stop in for a bite or browse. We accept no commission for these recommendations. They are locals tips 😉

San Francisco Rest and Sights – Day 6

Arrive in San Francisco and enjoy this friendly, eclectic city. Each neighborhood offers something very different for every visitor. Ride the trolley cars, visit pier 39 and fisherman’s wharf, have Dim Sum in Chinatown, a taco in the Mission, and experience the city like a local. Short (and free!) city walks tours and mini excursions are suggested in your Trip Guide.

San Francisco to Sausalito – Day 7

Choose to take a longer walking tour though Golden Gate Park and along the rugged Western Pacific coast, or to take a shorter walk along the Marina District. Depending on your choice today, you will pass by the De Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Botanical gardens, and the Japanese Tea Gardens.
You will lunch with views of the bay and ocean, and then meander through the lavish Sea Cliff neighborhood via the Lands-end Trail carved from the steppes above the Pacific Ocean. Marvel at the historic Presidio, see old military batteries and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge with breathtaking views of Alcatraz, Angel Island and Point Bonita Lighthouse.

Alternately, you can choose to walk along the Marina’s historic Crissy field, bordering a former military base Fort Mason and Fort Point (now preserved for visitors). With the Golden Gate Bridge always in view, stroll along the Golden Gate Promenade Beach, where kite and wind surfers put on a show. Visit Fort Point and the Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center before you walk across the Golden Gate bridge.

Wind through Fort Baker, and descend into the boutique sailing town of Sausalito. Enjoy an afternoon of wine and cheese at your inn, nestled in a quiet hillside setting – a short hike to the heart of downtown and the waterfront.

Sausalito to Muir Beach – Day 8

Leave your cozy inn after a delicious well-appointed breakfast, walk through town to choose your trail lunch from a destination gourmet deli. Put it in your daypack and continue up hill through picturesque hills, by some spectacular homes inhabited by the rich and famous. You will come to the top of a hill, look back on the San Francisco bay, the wharf, Sausalito, Tiburon and Angel and Alcatraz Islands. The trails become more remote as you enter the bay area’s treasure: Golden Gate National Recreation Area: protected lands of Marin county. These lands have a rich history and a high biodiversity.

Along the trail today and tomorrow you will encounter native to California plants and animals. If you choose the longer route, you will visit historic Fort Cronkite buildings and batteries in the Marin Headlands. You can pop in at the Headlands Center For The Arts, the Marin Headlands visitor center, or visit enormous gun housings scattered on the hillside. Head to the beach, where magnificent waves crash on rock outcroppings, and where marine life can be seen up close. At the Marine Mammal Center you can see and learn about otters, harbor seals, sea lions and elephant seal pups that have been rescued from danger and are being rehabilitated for release. These centers are all free of charge. You will hook up with the original route via the Tennessee Valley trail which boasts magnificent coastal views the entire way. Winding your way through wilderness to the pristine waters of Muir Beach, you may see Deer, Elk, Coyote, Red Tailed Hawks, Egrets, and Herons. You will experience gorgeous vistas of these coastal mountains, seeing the city, bridge and bay from rare angles.

Arrive in Muir Beach ready to relax and watch a spectacular sunset – pint of beer, or glass of wine in hand. This accommodation is a highlight.

*Option for a guided section of this trail – two hours hiking with an experienced naturalist can help you identify the plants, birds and other wildlife you encounter, and relay natural history of the area.

Muir Beach to Stinson Beach – Day 9

Walk through a Buddhist Farm and experience the quiet and calm of a meditative place in the still morning. On a clear day you will have coastal views almost the entire day today. Hook up to the historic Dipsea trail. Follow it down to Stinson beach – a sleepy beachside town that has been the location for more than 7 Hollywood movies! You may want to stay out of the water, as this is part of the red-triangle – a place with lots of marine mammals and great white sharks. Enjoy ocean views and stunning cliff vistas.

Stinson Beach to Olema – Day 10

Today, as you enter the National Seashore, you will experience the breathtaking views and beauty that characterize this area. You will have the choice between walking a high ridge trail with far-reaching valley views, or walking a longer coastal trail alongside ocean cliffs. Unless you are a very experienced hiker (2000 feet of elevation change and more than 16 miles hiking), both routes will incorporate a 10 minute scenic stagecoach or taxi ride along famous the Highway 1. You can choose to visit the reclusive hippie seaside town of Bolinas to experience it’s quirky downtown for a drink and a snack.

Olema to Inverness – Day 11

Today, you will visit the comprehensive Park visitor center that is a short walk from your Inn. From here, BEGIN TO HIKE the most stunning coastal trails in all of Northern California. Today you may choose to walk a loop to the remote coastal cliffs along the Pacific Ocean – a great overlook to spot birds and whales, OR you may continue your journey along a ridgeline to the Tomales Bayside town of Inverness. Either choice is an hearty adventure. Because you are more remote than previous days, today you may see animals that you haven’t seen thus far. These include: Bald Eagles, coyotes, Mule Deer, Tule Elk, and a wider variety of hawks and seabirds.

Inverness to Your Destination – Day 12

Today you have the choice to go on a day hike to a coastal waterfall ARCH ROCK, and popular beach hiking destination; or just head back via scenic bus and/or ferry or taxi. Detailed instructions will be provided to you to make this an easy transition back to the city.

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