The north end of this trail begins with a set of stairs that descend from the south side of the Sand Hill Trail; the southern end is at the Bird Island parking area. 1 mile. Provides access to rocky shores and pebbly beaches. Accessibility: not suitable for wheelchairs; strollers may be OK on some parts. However, it parallels the road for its full length, and there are several parking areas from which short easy walks with stunning views can be taken.
The South Shore Trail affords superb open ocean vistas. Whale, storm, and surf-watchers, bird-lovers, and plein-air painters frequent this stretch of coast. The geology here is sedimentary: this is the Carmelo Formation, composed of colorful sandstone, darker mudstone, and "pudding-stone", or conglomerate - all fascinatingly shaped by the restless sea. You may leave the trail at various points between Sand Hill Cove and Weston Beach, where there are no guide wires. But please be aware of your own safety (waves and slippery rocks) and of the fragility of bluff plants and tidepool creatures, and keep to obvious trails and side paths.
Weston Beach is the Reserve's best spot to look for tide pool creatures: sea stars, chitons, crabs, anemones, turban snails, and a myriad forms and colors of algae – best seen at low tide. Otters can often be seen in the water. Listen for the cry of the oystercatchers, and watch for egrets, pelicans, herons, cormorants, and gulls. You may also see red-shouldered or red-tailed hawks, and white-tailed kites patrolling the meadow just to the east.
Weston Beach is named after the noted early-20th century black-and-white photographer Edward Weston, who found art in the amazing shapes and shadings of the rocks on this “beach”. (It is really a rocky shelf.) Be sure to look closely at the shoreline rocks under your feet to discover their surprisingly patterned beauty.