Twenty years ago, the voters of San Mateo County, California, just south of San Francisco, approved a local tax to pay for a fix to Highway 1 that was shut down by a landslide. The State of California had advanced a plan that would blast a road cut through the middle of San Mateo Mountain, destroying the local landmark. The people of the county were shocked and asked CalTrans, why not tunnel under the mountain. CalTrans replied it could not find money for that. The people of the county passed the local tax, funded the tunnels for CalTrans, saved the mountain, and turned the old section of Highway 1 into a foot and bicycle trail, which opened to the public one year ago, along with the new tunnels!
The Devil’s Slide is on a very unique parcel of California land that is epically steep and spectacular, but made of weak crumbling rock falling into the sea, a sliver of beach cliff property along the San Gregorio Fault, part of the San Andreas fault zone. The San Gregorio Fault cuts its way north and south down the steep coastline through the edge of the Pacific Plate, plunging in and out of the Pacific Ocean.
Of course what makes this coastline dangerous also makes it beautiful and spectacular. These crumbling cliffs host unique flowers and are the nesting ground for seacliff-loving birds and mammals. These beach cliffs continue downwards under the sea, only the very tops emerging from water, the depths from where the deep, cold California Current emerges from. The icy water, ancient and pristine, cools the air upon contact, dousing the coast often in fog. The mountainous cliffs jut into the sky over the Pacific, catching high winds, making convenient nesting stops for sea birds and a offering a unique ecosystem for California wildflowers.
This new county park neighbors the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, adding to public lands preserving the open space in one of the hottest economic regions of the world – which wouldn’t be such a desirable place to live if it weren’t kept so beautiful.