off Highway 1
Moss Beach, CA
San Mateo County
Hours: sunrise to sunset
Entrance fee: None
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is part of the San Mateo County Parks system. Within the reserve are great communities of marine life, including sea stars, anemones, sponges, and crabs. Most of the marine life can be seen in the inter-tidal zone pools. The best time to visit the tide pools is during zero or negative low tides.
A network of trails leads around the reserve. One of the most popular trails follows the bluff, offering views of
the Pacific Ocean. An observation point is located near the northern end.
The California Coastal Trail extends through the park. It is an accessible multi-use trail open to walkers, equestrians, and cyclists. The Coastal Trail continues south, connecting with Pillar Point Bluff trails and the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail.
Within the reserve are a mixture of native and nonnative plants. Nonnative plants include Monterey cypress, pampas grass, various weeds, and ornamental plants from neighboring gardens. Native plants are found in three communities: freshwater marsh, willow riparian forest, and coastal bluff scrub.
The tide pools are brimming with marine life such as sea urchins, limpets, barnacles, crabs. and now and then a red octopus. Tidal reefs provide a rich source of nutrients for a variety of marine life found along the 3 miles of the Reserve's shoreline. Besides the marine life found in tide pools, visitors may see harbor seals, sea lions, and whales.
Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve have updated their self-guided brochure which serves as a guide to the reefs and the most commonly seen tide pool marine life. It also provides guidance about rules of conduct when visiting the tide pools. It is available to be downloaded on their website: Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve serves as an important teaching destination for students of all ages. Reserve docent staff, trained volunteers, and docent naturalists provide tours, workshops, seminars, and classes about the natural resources within the reserve. Visitors learn about the ecological systems of the inter-tidal reef, the beaches, the wetlands, and the beach. On weekends volunteer naturalists can be found at the tide pools, ready to answer your questions.
Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more can be made through the San Mateo County Parks reservation line (650) 363-4021. Reservations must be made by the 1st of the month prior to your visit. There is a fee for reservations. Reservations for school groups are accepted only for grades 3 and up.
Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is non-profit organization that works to train volunteer naturalists to lead tours at the Reserve. You can learn all about their good work and how you can support them at their website: Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety