Excellent Park for Families: San Bruno Mountain County Park

20130415G-1518 San Bruno County & State Park stands as the Northern sentinel of the Santa Cruz mountains.  The park’s 1314’ peak offers outstanding trail runs & hikes.  Its multiple hiking options are great for adults & kids.  The parks includes:

  • Ridge reviews of San Francisco, SF Bay, and Pacific Ocean
  • Multiple hiking options for families: starting at Summit Trail near the top of the bog trail
  • Great berry picking along the Bog Trail in late summer
  • Preserve for rare and endangered animals including checkerspot butterfly on its exposed windy slopes & Serpentine soil
  • Varied wildflowers in spring
  • 1st OpenSpace Park master plan in the nation
  • Adjacent to a canyon for a Bullitt care chase (for those Steve McQueen fans)
  • Excellent Peninsula alternative to Marin

One of my favorite moderate hikes in the Bay Area is the 3.1 miles Summit Loop.  The well graded trail is good for trail runs and moderate hikes with friends.  Just make sure to watch your footing along with the multiple 360 degree views of the Bay Area.  I have a soft spot for San Bruno Mountain since I’ve lead 100s volunteer trail maintainers over the years with www.trailcenter.org and San Mateo County Parks in the park.

San Bruno Mountain has a unique history.  The US Military protected it as a Nike Missile location.  Like Angel Island (http://www.technologyhiker.com/?p=198), the military built paved roads in places where you would not expect them.  One of the first park Master Plans in the country governed San Bruno management after the military vacated the site.  Today, San Mateo County Parks manages the site including the State Park lands north of the road.

I hiked San Bruno Mountain again this weekend.  I suggest starting at the Summit Trail main lot just north of Guadalupe Parkway.

You start at the main lot.  I suggest walking the Summit Trail west toward the Pacific Ocean (counter clockwise).  After descending a bit along a wash, start ascending a series of ridges.  Views of the Pacific Ocean first greet the hiker after the first ridge is ascended.  Then, San Francisco and Marin appear on the horizon.  As you ascend further, you can see SF Bay and Mt Diablo towering in the distance.  The trail culminates at the 1300 foot summit includes a paved road.  My favorite section is the area just East of the summit with the trail, ridges, and Bay Area all in view.  Check out many of the ravens that hover near the rocky ridges and take a rest on the bench facing West.  The descent is more direct and switchbacks guide you down the mountain until a short forested area.  The trail starts at about 700 feet, descends to 600 feet before ascending to over 1300 feet.

For families with kids, I recommend either driving to the summit and catching the Summit Trail there.  You can do an out and back hike with wonderful views including watching the tankers line up in San Francisco Bay.  Alternatively, park at the lot adjacent to the entrance and hike a Bog Trail loop. The loop includes streams, forests, many small animals, and section upon section of huge blackberry bushes.  The trail is relatively flat which is good for little ones.  Just make sure that your child does not wear white as the blackberry juice can be tough to remove from shirts.

The $5 entrance fee supports the San Mateo County Parks and the picnic areas on the North Side of the Park.  Just watch the weather as it can be windy, foggy and exposed, especially on summer afternoons.

I recommend San Bruno Mountain as a great mountain refuge with excellent views and great access from San Francisco and the SF Bay Peninsula.  Alternatively, the next time you drive along 101 or fly from SFO, think about the many hiking and running opportunities at San Bruno County Park – one of my favorites.


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