Milagra Ridge,
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/National Park Service,
San Mateo County
In brief:
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 700 feet.

Exposure:
Completely exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time
:
Under an hour.

Season
:
Nice any time -- great in spring.

Getting there:
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:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/405

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3738'8.06"N
Longitude
12228'27.60"W
(* 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.

Trailhead details:
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.

Rules:
Bikes permitted on the paved trail. No horses. Dogs are permitted on leash only.

The Official Story:
NPS's Milagra Ridge page.

Map Choices/More Info:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Milagra Ridge brochure and map from NPS (includes map).
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) is a good guide (available from Pease Press).
• 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 this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Visiting tiny Milagra Ridge, I am reminded of the Trailheadfortuitous 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 Paved trailon leash.
     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. Montara Mountain looms to the southYou 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 theView north  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 Returning to the trailhead 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 3, 2002