Training for a Camino or love a long walk? Links and maps for California Coastal Trails and Hostels


Half Moon bay signed ©

Hi, Walkers and Hikers! Ready for an adventure? Read on for Maps and Links to almost everything you want to know about hiking or walking on the California Coastal Trails and staying at hostels or campgrounds. Drive a few hours away from home in Northern California and  you will find spectacular seashores and hiking.   Train for your Camino, whether it’s just around the corner or still in the dream stage.

Recently I visited  a friend who lives on the spectacular Northern California Coast, near Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.  My drive from the Sierra Nevada Foothills to Montara was less than three hours. Time your journey to avoid rush hour traffic.

 We walked on the California Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay. The Coastal Trail website features beaches, trailheads, trails and maps from California County seashores. Click on the trails and maps link for more Coastal Trails up and down the state.

Maps on California Coastal Trail Website 

This San Mateo County coastal map shows trails from above Golden Gate National Recreational Area down to Año Nuevo State Park and Reserve and is driving distance from many Northern California towns and cities. You can drive or bike between hostels near the trails, but they are far apart for most hikers. Check out the Northern California Hostel system for reservations and information. Or consider camping at a State Beach along the way.









Before my first Camino,  I spent a few days at Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, which is about seven miles north of Año Nuevo Reserve, where you can observe Elephant Seals and walk the sand dunes.  I loved the hostel, which was a practice for me before staying in albergues.  The International Hostels welcome visitors from all over the world, of all ages and you will hear many different languages, just like on the Camino. If your timing is right, you might see whales and dolphins from the hostel observation deck or even from the beaches.

Pigeon Point Hostel            Refugio Gaucelmo Rabanal del Camino

If you haven’t stayed in hostels or albergues (refugios), this is a great experience and practice for communal sleeping. See the similarities of sleeping arrangements above. Personally, I love albergues (hostels for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago) because I meet other pilgrims and travelers and am part of the community. My perfect night would be sleeping in a private room within an albergue, but on my Caminos, singles in albergues were rare or not available. For a good night’s sleep,  I recommend bringing earplugs and eye shades, a sense of humor and flexibility. I balanced staying in albergues with a few nights in casa rurals or pensions, to catch up on sound sleep and privacy.

American Pilgrims on the Camino and our Sacramento Pilgrims chapter answer more questions about walking on the Camino. 

Check out the Año Nuevo website to find out about Guided Elephant Seal Walks happening right now until March 31. Until the end of March, you can only enter the Seal area on a guided walk.  Be prepared for a deep sand and up and downhill hike on the dunes.   I hiked trails on and near the shore and visited the Elephant Seals Reserve when I stayed at the Pigeon Point Hostel. 

Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo Reserve

Back to the present:  After my recent stay on the coast, I returned home filled with gratitude for my friend’s generosity and kindness, and for the foresight and effort of people and communities in preserving land and seashores for public uses.

You will find sections of the coastal trail that are serene and a place for meditation and contemplation and other areas with many walkers, bikers, families, kids and dogs. With the variety of terrain, you’ll train for hills, flats, hard and soft surfaces. Close your eyes and imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean, plants and sea life. Walk down to the shore, take off your shoes, feel the sand and dip your feet in the healing salt water. Or if you’re brave, jump in.  I can’t wait to return to the coast. It’s a California treasure.

Training for the Camino –backpack, boots, poles and the Coastal Trail

Have you hiked the California coast before?   What a great way to prepare for a long distance walk or pilgrimage or spend a day or more walking along the coast. It’s all an adventure.   Put on your hiking shoes or boots and let me know if you loved the Coastal Trails as much as I do.

Thanks for walking with me. Buen Camino, Irene Lipshin


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