1.5 mile loop through coastal scrub on a nearly level ridge.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.5 mile loop hike is easy. Minimal elevation changes.
Trailhead elevation is about 640 feet, and the park's high point is about
Dirt fire roads and trails.
Under an hour.
Nice any time -- great in spring.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit Westborough. Drive uphill to the west for
1 mile, cross Skyline Boulevard onto Sharp Park Road, and after an additional
0.6 mile, turn right (at a light) at the junction with College. Drive about
0.2 miles to the trailhead at end of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants a few miles in either direction
to the west or east; west in Pacifica, east near Skyline Boulevard. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Roadside parking for about 6 vehicles. No maps
or drinking water. There's a portable toilet in the park about 0.3 mile
from the trailhead. No designated handicapped parking, but the paved trail
is wheelchair accessible. There is no direct public transportation to Milagra
Ridge, but SamTrans buses #40 and 121 run nearby.
Bikes permitted on the paved trail. No horses. Dogs are permitted on leash
The Official Story:
Map Choices/More Info:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Ridge brochure and map from NPS (includes map).
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) is a
good guide (available from Pease
There's a simple map and trail descriptions in Peninsula Trails,
by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Visit this website
for more info and some photos.
View photos from
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
tiny Milagra Ridge, I am reminded of the fortuitous
synergy that occurs when people love open space, and management provides
an outlet for their passions. This tract of land, formerly mangled by
the military, is in the process of a thoughtful restoration campaign.
Non-native invasive plants such as broom and iceplant have been uprooted,
and volunteers are restoring native plants to the open plains and hillsides.
Garbage, a real problem at most open spaces adjacent to neighborhoods,
is practically nonexistent. It's obvious that locals feel a sense of ownership
for Milagra Ridge, and that the future is bright for the parcel, which
is owned by the GGNRA.
Dog owners may enjoy a stroll with their
canine friends at Milagra, but as the preserve is a haven for endangered
Mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterflies, dogs are required to remain
Spring is the season to schedule a visit.
Milagra Ridge is practically treeless, and is dominated by gently rolling
coast scrub and grassland. It's a delight to focus your attention on
the plethora of wildflowers poking up out of the grass after a
drab winter. Beware of poison oak, though.
On a clear day, you'll have
unobstructed views of the ocean, and wonderful perspectives of
Mount Tamalpais to the north and Montara Mountain to the south. Milagra
is a fantastic place to birdwatch; you may see kestrels, harriers, and
hawks riding the thermals over the preserve. This windswept hilltop can
get chilly, so bring a windbreaker and a hat.
Although there are no maps, you don't really
need one. Steps depart uphill to the left, and a flat paved road heads
north. Start at the yellow gate. Walk around the gate and begin the
hike on an old paved road. You
might see uprooted iceplant piled up along the trail. Coyote brush and
sagebrush are common, accompanied occasionally with willow, poison oak,
twinberry, and California coffeeberry. Tiny creeping strawberry plants
nestle close to the ground. Fences keep visitors away from a utility building
on the left side of the trail. The grade is nearly level as the paved
trail winds through coastal scrub. Where the pavement takes a turn to
the right, at 0.27 mile, a dirt path continues straight. Continue right,
on the pavement.
After a straight stretch, the paved
trail sweeps left, and at 0.50 mile, you'll reach an unsigned junction.
Two dirt paths head right; choose the one with steps (the other
is a dead-end). After a brief ascent, the stairs end back at the pavement,
at 0.55 mile. Turn right.
The paved trail crests, and at the top of
the hill, views of the ocean unfold. Look for California poppies and paintbrush
in winter. If you're a birdwatcher, this is a good spot to scan the skies
for raptors. The fenced area at the end of the
pavement looks like a dead-end, but walk toward the ocean and descend
on another set of stairs.
When the steps end at 0.67 mile, turn right
onto pavement once again. Just past an old military bunker, there's a
small demonstration garden, with samples of native grasses, iris, blue-eyed
grass, strawberries, yarrow, sagebrush, and scorpionweed. Turn back here,
at 0.71 mile, and retrace your steps to the previous junction.
Walk uphill on the pavement (keep to the right or you'll end up
back on top of the hill).
In early spring great clusters of mustard
thrive on the right. You might also see fiddlenecks and lupines. Sagebrush,
coyote brush, and lizardtail line the road. At 0.82 mile, you'll reach
another unsigned junction. Continue straight on the dirt trail,
marked by a no-bikes sign.
Paths head straight and right; for the prettiest
views, bear right at 0.84 miles. You'll walk past perhaps the tallest
plant along the trail, a cypress. Attractive fences protect the butterfly
habitat as the path draws near the edge of the hillside, then winds
vaguely south. Although dogs are frequent guests at Milagra, other wild
animals live here, and you might see bobcat or coyote prints as well as
their telltale furry scat. The path draws near the edge of a bluff, but
then veers back toward the old paved road. Two rough paths feed in from
the left, and then at 1.03 miles, the trail splits. If you want to avoid
any more climbing, take the dirt path connector, straight, back to the
paved road. Otherwise, bear right.
Pre-spring wildflowers include checkerblooms
and buttercups; later you might see paintbrush and scorpionweed. Look
for a large patch of Oregon grape on the right. The path turns right and
heads uphill on some steps. From the crest of this hill, you'll have the
best views of the hike, including, on clear days, Mount Tamalpais, the
ocean, and Montara Mountain. The trail passes the back side of the utility
building, then heads east and descends to the trailhead. On the way down,
in spring look for lupines and owl's clover on the right.
Total distance: 1.47 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April