3.5 mile loop to the summit, with loads of native vegetation all along the
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.5 mile loop hike is easy, with about 650 feet in elevation
change. Trailhead elevation is around 730 feet. Highest elevation on this
hike is around 1200 feet. The hikes climbs and descends on well-graded,
but rocky trails. This is a good hike for beginners.
Nice any time, but best in spring.
From southbound US 101 in San Francisco County, exit #429B Cow Palace/Third
Street. Drive south on Bayshore about 2 miles, turn right on Guadalupe Canyon
Parkway and drive uphill about 2 miles to the park entrance on the right
side of the road.
From northbound US 101, take Exit 426A
toward the Cow Palace and drive north on Bayshore Boulevard; then turn left onto Guadalupe Canyon Parkway.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit #50 Mission Street,
then take Market to Guadalupe Canyon Parkway and drive east to the park
entrance on the left side of the road (it's about 3 miles from 280).
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, restaurants, and stores available to the northeast on Bayshore near
Geneva, and to the west near I-280. No camping.
$6 entrance fee (self-registration if kiosk is unstaffed). Maps available
at the kiosk. Once past the kiosk, drive past the first lot, under the parkway
to the trailhead on the south side of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway. Parking
for about 20 cars. Restroom and pay phone available near the trailhead on
the north side of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway. One designated handicapped parking
spot, and trails may be wheelchair accessible with assistance. There is
no direct public transportation to the park.
Bikes permitted on a few trails. Horses and hikers share the rest. No dogs.
Park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (may close earlier in winter).
The Official Story:
San Bruno page.
Park office 650-992-6770
Map Choices/More Info:
This hike is
described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco,
by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order
this book from Amazon.com.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of this
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) is a
good guide (available from Pease
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
Tim Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountain Trail Book has a simple
map and park descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Nature article about San Bruno Mountain
View 79 photos from the
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
third time proved to be the charm for me at San Bruno Mountain
Park. On my two previous visits I tried the Ridge Trail, and Saddle
Trail. The parking area near the summit, which serves as the trailhead
for the Ridge Trail, is used as a party spot by locals on occasion, and
I felt uncomfortable hiking alone there. Saddle Trail is heavily used
by joggers (also open to cyclists), and is a short, kind of bland loop.
But like Goldilocks, I found the third hike was just right. Summit Loop
Trail climbs easily on a well-graded path to the ridge line, and then
drops back to the trailhead, about a 3.5 -mile circuit. Along the way,
the trail runs along a creek, ascends through chaparral, and provides
excellent views of downtown San Francisco, the East Bay hills, and the
Santa Cruz Mountains from the ridge. The spring wildflowers are outstanding;
lots of variety and something blooming
just about everywhere. I have a soft spot in my heart for San Bruno Mountain,
because it was here I first saw a coyote (along the side of Radio Road).
There are 4 loops of various lengths at
San Bruno. The most popular seems to be Saddle Trail, which is a nearly
flat 3 mile circuit originating at the trailhead on the northern part
of San Bruno (close to the entry kiosk). Of the trails south of Guadalupe
Canyon Parkway, Summit is the longest and most challenging loop, though
still an easy 3.1 mile hike. Eucalyptus Loop Trail is just over 1 mile,
and Dairy Ravine Trail and Summit Loop can extend that loop another 1/2
mile or so. Ridge Trail is an out and back path (2.4 miles one way), the
only trail in the southern portion of the park. To access Ridge Trail,
park at the summit lot, at the end of Radio Road.
For the featured hike, start at the trailhead
near the volunteer-built demonstration garden. Follow the signpost's
directions toward the Summit Loop Trail, right (west). The path splits into the two ends
of Summit Loop Trail after just 350 feet. Bear right at the signed
Shortly after, the trail crosses the street.
This narrow path, closed to cyclists but open to equestrians, descends
slightly through grassland, with elderberry trees giving way to eucalyptus
and cypress trees as Summit Loop Trail nears a creek. In the spring, expect
to see suncups and blue-eyed grass. After a damp fern-lined stretch, the
path turns west and runs parallel to Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, which is
visible and audible, but not much more than a passing distraction from
the flowering cow parsnip, blackberry vines, sticky monkeyflower, California
poppies, scarlet pimpernel, strawberry, California buttercup, and checker-bloom.
A tiny bridge crosses a damp spot where shrubs have grown up and over
the trail like an arbor. Summit Loop Trail makes a turn to the south and
runs along April Brook. You might see lupine, manroot, and bluedicks blooming
in the spring,and
California scorpionweed, which has a distinctive curving flower bract,
and dusky purple flowers. Coyote brush, lizardtail, California coffeeberry
and ferns line the trail. After crossing April Brook, Summit Loop Trail
turns north and begins a gentle climb. California sagebrush becomes
a dominant plant, but showy springtime plants include poppies, checker-bloom,
and an occasional johnny-jump-up. Traffic noises recede as the trail ascends.
Hummingbirds, hawks, northern harriers, and vultures swoop through the
skies, along with a variety of butterflies, including red admirals and
common buckeyes. A bench provides a nice spot to look back downhill, gauging
the progress you've made. Mount Tamalpais pops up to the north, and San
Bruno Mountain's summit is visible to the south. Summit Loop Trail continues
an easy climb through the shrubby plants. A sharp-eyed hiker may pick
out the distinctive holly-shaped leaves of Oregon
grape, and the aptly named twinberry bush. Closer to the ground, goldenfields
provide a burst of yellow color in the spring. Poison oak thrives
in large clumps along the trail. Fences keep trail users away from communications
equipment on the ridgeline, as the path continues to climb toward the
summit. Figwort, cinquefoil, and nightshade may be glimpsed along the
path, as cottontail rabbits and lizards scurry through the scrub. A special
treat in spring is the emergence of hummingbird sage's large purple flowers.
At 2 miles, Summit Loop Trail crosses a private, gated road and makes
a run for the ridgeline. Views to the west are unobstructed, and include
Montara Mountain, the Farallones, and the ocean. It can get very windy
up here, and only sturdy plants thrive, but look for bush lupine, poppies,
owl's clover, and plenty of irises in the spring. Some shortcuts have
been worn in, making it tough to pick out the official trail. At 2.36
miles, Summit Loop Trail crosses
the road again (for the last time!), at the hike's high spot, then begins
a drop to the east. The views to the east and north distract from the
trail. At a signed junction at 2.44 miles, Ridge Trail heads south
on the right side of the trail. Continue straight on Summit Loop Trail.
Ceanothus is common along the trail, as
are more blooming flowers in the spring, particularly paintbrush, goldenfields,
and poppies. You might even notice a few huckleberry shrubs. A bench sits
on the edge of a bluff and features million dollar views of downtown San
Francisco, Marin, and the East Bay, including Mount Diablo. A few steps
later Dairy Ravine Trail begins on the right side of the trail at a signed
junction, at 2.61 miles. Either Summit Loop or Dairy Ravine are optional
here; for the featured hike, turn right on Dairy Ravine Trail.
Dairy Ravine Trail switchbacks gently downhill,
through a panoply of springtime flowers, including johnny-jump-ups, poppy,
bluedicks, goldenfields, California buttercup, scorpionweed, blue-eyed
grass, rock cress, checker-bloom, and paintbrush.This
side of the mountain is frequently visited, and so shortcuts are common.
The trail approaches a grove of eucalyptus trees growing in Dairy Ravine,
but turns back into grassland, away from the ravine. This eastern exposure
is more dry and exposed than the northern exposure Summit Loop Trail passed
through earlier, so moisture-loving plants like cow parsnip are few and
far between. Dairy Ravine Trail ends at a signed junction with Eucalyptus
Loop Trail at 3.04 miles. Again, either end of the trail returns to the
trailhead, but for the featured hike, turn right.
As Eucalyptus Loop Trail winds downhill,
the path features views to the remote southern canyons and slopes of the
mountain. A faint, unsigned trail breaks off on the right side of the
trail. This is Old Ranch Road, which runs a ways along Guadalupe Canyon
Parkway and then ends. Continue straight on Eucalyptus Trail. The
trailhead is visible straight ahead. Eucalyptus Trail ends just before
the parking area.
Total distance: 3.54 miles
Last hiked: Saturday, April 3, 2004