Brooks Creek Trail
By Bevan Jones
The Brooks Creek Trail provides a very pleasant hiking experience. It’s relatively short—doesn’t climb nor drop excessively—is a “hikers only” trail—offers both shaded and exposed stretches — delivers great views and a wonderful diversity of flora—and, if the season is right, includes an inspiring view of the Brooks Creek Waterfall.
The trail provides a link between Trout Farm Trail, near the Visitor’s Center, and Montara Mountain Trail. It may be enjoyed as either an “out-and-back” hike, or as part of a loop returning along a section of the Montata Mountain route ( please check the trail map for reference ).
We’ll start our walk at the trailhead just alongside the South Parking Lot restrooms. A sign there will boldly proclaim the Old Trout Farm Trail with accompanying pointers for our Brooks Creek Trail. Note the parenthetical mention of a “Waterfall Viewing Area”. More on this later. The initial part of Brooks Creek Trail follows the footpath of the Old Trout Farm Trail. The two tracks are so perfectly melded that the casual hiker will have great difficulty differentiating one from the other. This will be of little concern to you as you will be primarily intent on enjoying the magnificent grove of young eucalyptus through which you are passing. Heading up a gentle slope behind one of the park’s picnic areas, you’ll see sword and bracken fern, blackberry, and poison oak, all mingled amid the fallen leaves, branches and tangled shards of shed treebark.
A little further along this initial stretch of trail, the forests vary to include Douglas Fir, stands of Monterey Pine and the occasional redwood. Around about a third of a mile out you’ll arrive at a bench on the right that looks over the South Fork San Pedro Creek drainage. It also alerts us to the upcoming trail junction at which Old Trout Farm and Brooks Creek trails part ways. Following the alluring “Waterfall Viewing” signs and arrows, we will take the right hand branch and be on Brooks Creek Trail proper.
The path continues through young eucalyptus but slowly departs this canopy and we start to find an increased presence of ceanothus, manzanita, buckeye, sticky monkey flower and sagebrush. The trail becomes less shaded as we travel along what is now the north side of the Brooks Creek watershed. As the tree cover opens up, a glance back toward the east will present nice views of the park’s eastern hills where you’ll be able to pick out the park’s Valley View Trail. Do keep an eye out for rock and roots underfoot as they lie in wait to trip up a hapless passerby. Stop for a moment and listen – there’s a scrub jay. And there’s a wrentit. Maybe you’ll hear the redtail hawk calling as he circles lazily overhead. Downslope to your left you may well notice the usually year-round babble of Brooks Creek as it tumbles its way down to rendezvous with San Pedro Creek’s South Fork — heard but not seen through the layers of lush vegetation.
A bit further along this gentle uphill hike – about two thirds of a mile from where we first started out — and after a couple of short jogs back into small hillside ravines — you’ll arrive at another bench set in a sea of manzanita. Sit for a while and enjoy your peaceful surroundings. You have reached the official “Waterfall Viewing Area”. Gaze out over the great expanse of manzanita, silktassle, madrone, chinquapin, huckleberry and coyote bush. If there has been adequate rainfall, a gently cascading Brooks Falls will be visible off across the canyon. But even at its fullest, the falls can be somewhat obscured by encroaching vegetations that crowd in for its moisture. Keep an eye to the skies, as well, where you may possibly sight the passing raven or crow, or turkey vulture — all of which frequent this area.
Once you’re rested and renewed, continue on up the trail. You are now entering the land of great, towering Montara manzanita – endemic to this particular area. Note also tree-size toyon (California holly), coast chaparral and coyote bush. If you are hiking in springtime the manzanita will be blooming in white-blossomed profusion. If it is the winter season, red berries will cover the toyon. The track winds along and switchbacks up onto a ridge with panoramic views off to Sweeney Ridge and some of the park’s Hazelnut Trail. Your pathway will gently curve to the north west and after a short, fairly level stretch you’ll arrive at the end of Brooks Creek Trail as it intersects Montara Mountain Trail.
You have covered about a mile of trail and climbed around 660 ft. from the beginning trailhead and, if you’ve chosen a relatively clear day, your reward is there before you. Drop your pack, have another sip of water, and just marvel at the dramatic vista. Take advantage of the bench which has been so perfectly placed there for your viewing pleasure. The western panorama includes parts of Pacifica’s Linda Mar district, a gently curving surfbreak of the similarly named state beach, part of Pedro Point’s headlands, and an expanse of Pacific Ocean including – on an obliging day — the Farallon Islands and Point Reyes National Seashore. An encounter well worth the effort expended to achieve, so relax a while and soak it all in.
Now… what’s next? If you still have some energy to burn, you may choose to head up Montara Mountain Trail. It’s a bit more strenuous 1.1 miles – mostly up – to Montara Mountain Road and access to the Montara peaks. Otherwise, check the signposts and decide which will be your return route. It’s 1 mile back down the way you came on Brooks Creek Trail, or 1.2 miles down Montara Mountain Trail. Either track will take you right back to the original trailhead, and, since there’s always something new around every bend, you really can’t go wrong.« Return to Trails