Burleigh Murray State Park

Spring Summer Fall Winter

Main Entrance, Burleigh Murray State Park, March 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)


Burleigh Murray State Park is a relatively recent addition to the State Park system, dating from 1983. A former ranch, the park's only active trail consists of the old ranch road. This runs from the parking lot up to the ranger residence. The trail then continues to the old barn, and on for about another mile, if it has been mowed recently, before becoming overgrown and impassable. The primary habitat in the first mile is a riparian corridor along the creek, which parallels the trail. Other habitats include mature eucalyptus groves, meadows, and chaparral. It is a pleasingly birdy hike of just over a mile from the parking lot to the barn, with nearly constant activity and bird sounds, making this location a premier spot to learn and practice birding by ear. The road gains elevation quite slowly, and would be an appropriate trail for people with mild mobility issues, and, because of the opportunity to explore around the old barn, it could potentially be of interest to children, too.

This sheltered coastal canyon with its year-round creek attracts many more-localized breeding birds including Allen's Hummingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Swainson's Thrush, Wilson's, Orange-crowned, and MacGillivray's Warblers, and Black-headed Grosbeak

Over the years, this park has yielded some interesting species, including Rufous Hummingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Hooded and Bullock's Orioles, Western Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Lazuli and Indigo Buntings. The site regularly turns up over-wintering warblers, too, such as Orange-crowned and Black-throated Gray Warblers. The area east of the barn has some excellent high chaparral that has been congenial to Black-chinned Sparrows in recent years, though still rare and unexpected. Owls include Great Horned, Northern Pygmy, and Barn. Higgins-Purisima Road between Burleigh Murray and Half Moon Bay has excellent owling at night, primarily for Great Horned and Barn Owls. Drive slowly west from Burleigh Murray, and keep an eye on the telephone poles and wires.

Burleigh Murray State Park is loved by local birders, but little known outside of the coastal area. It can be a welcome refuge when coastal fog ruins your morning plans. The state has purchased land that expands the eastern boundary of Burleigh Murray State Park all the way to SR 35, Skyline Boulevard. While state budgetary woes might not enable this to happen anytime soon, perhaps one day a trail from SR35 to the main trail at Burleigh Murray might become a reality. Please respect the privacy of the ranger residence near the barn. There is also an active gun range here, used and maintained by the State Parks and California Fish & Wildlife departments, located off a signed spur road near the end of the ranch road. For your safety, be sure to steer clear of it and stay on the well-marked trail.

Look For These Birds

Canada Goose, Mallard (fly-over), California Quail, Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Osprey (fly-over), Northern Harrier, White-tailed Kite, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, California Gull (fly-over), Western Gull (fly-over), Caspian Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Vaux's Swift, White-throated Swift, Anna's Hummingbird, Allen's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Black Phoebe, Say's Phoebe, Hutton's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Cassin's Vireo (uncommon), Steller's Jay, California Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, House Wren, Bewick's Wren, Pacific Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Varied Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, California Thrasher, Wrentit, American Pipit, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler,Black-throated Gray Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Western Tanager, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Purple Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill (uncommon), Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Rarities Seen Here

In this guide, "rarities" are defined as those species given an County Abundance Code of 4, 5, or 6.

Bald Eagle (fly-overs), Golden Eagle (2013, 2016), Ferruginous Hawk (2018), Rufous Hummingbird (most years; the most reliable spot in the county for them in spring), Common Poorwill (2019), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2012), Willow Flycatcher (2016, 2017, 2018), Loggerhead Shrike (2016), Red-eyed Vireo (2017), Horned Lark (2010), Gray Catbird (2016), Clay-colored Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow (2018, 2020), White-throated Sparrow, Northern Parula (2020), American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler (1999), Nashville Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat (2009, 2018, 2019, 2022), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2017, 2018), Indigo Bunting (2007, 2016), Summer Tanager (2016)


Burleigh Murray State Park is located on Higgins-Purisima Road in Half Moon Bay. Higgins-Purisima Road begins just off of SR1, going east where Main Street ends. Serving as a landmark is a local Fire Station at this corner and a giant white sculpture resembling a half moon. Burleigh Murray State Park is about 1-1/2 miles east on Higgins-Purisima Road. Look for the split-rail fence on the left before the driveway into the parking lot; the park's road boundary is quite small, and it is easy to drive by the park, and difficult to find a place to turn around.

Interactive Map

Red Markers: Parking Area or Trail Head
Hover mouse pointer over marker, or click marker, for identification.


There are currently no fees.


8:00 am to sunset.


The trail is used by bicyclists and horses, too. Ticks are abundant in the tall grass, so stay on the road or the mowed trail. Mountain lions have been seen here regularly.


The park and parking lot are open from 8:00 am until sunset. There is no parking along the road outside the park. There is an outhouse near the beginning of the trail, and another at the large eucalyptus grove nearer the barn. There is no fresh water available in the park. Picnic tables are available in a eucalyptus grove along the trail and at the barn.




Avian Research Status

eBird Mission Complete

The eBird hotspot for Burleigh Murray is entitled Burleigh Murray SP. The quality of the birding in this gem of a park has led to it having data in ALL FORTY-EIGHT QUADRANTS, for a total of 136 species! Please enter your sightings on eBird; for a relatively new park like Burleigh Murray, establishing a base line for the avian population, and noticing changes as the land shifts from being an active ranch to a state park, is invaluable.

The iNaturalist place marker for Burleigh Murray shows extraordinary coverage; the plant and insect life here is also unusual and diverse.

Burleigh Murray has grown in importance as a location for Sequoia Audubon field trips. Thirty-seven scheduled trips have taken place, accelerating in the late 2010s. The regular trips here are a great way to learn local chaparral birds, as well as scouting for rarities.

Additional Photos

Rufous Hummingbird, Burleigh Murray State Park, March 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)

Riparian Habitat, Burleigh Murray State Park, March 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)

Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Burleigh Murray State Park, March 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)

Hillside Scrub Habitat, Burleigh Murray State Park, March 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)

Downy Woodpecker doing his level best to evict an invasive invading European Starling, Burleigh Murray State Park, May 2009 (Jennifer Rycenga)

Author: Jennifer Rycenga, Uploaded: March 29th, 2009
Last Update: May 22nd, 2022, 8:56am

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