Wheeling Over the Ridge

Biking San Bruno's Sweeney Ridge
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Excerpted from San Francisco Peninsula Bike Trails by Conrad J. Boisvert

On November 4, 1769, the expedition of the Spanish explorer, Captain Gaspar de Portola, in search of Monterey Bay, climbed from the coast to what is today Sweeney Ridge. From that vantage point, his party beheld the valley below and the present-day San Francisco Bay. Not realizing the importance of his discovery, Portola and his group camped by a small lagoon, now covered over by San Andreas Lake, and attempted to get around the bay. Unsuccessful in that effort, he eventually found Monterey Bay in the following year. In 1773, subsequent Spanish expeditions charted the San Francisco Bay and established San Francisco.

Historic Sweeney Ridge, encompassing some 1047 acres, was incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1984. At the top of Sweeney Ridge, you will find magnificent views to the east of the San Andreas Lake and the San Francisco Watershed, the Bay, and Mount Diablo, and to the west, of Pacifica and the ocean shoreline.

Region: San Francisco
Total Distance: 12 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Type of Bike: Mountain Bike
Ride Rating: Moderate 
Riding Time: 2 hours 
Calories Burned: 750 

The route leads out of the Skyline College campus and through residential neighborhoods to Sneath Lane. At the end of Sneath Lane is the paved trail, also named Sneath Lane, leading to Sweeney Ridge. This trail is very steep in places and climbs about 600 feet to get to the ridge top. At the top, there is a small marker on the unpaved Sweeney Ridge Trail.

After proceeding out and back along Sweeney Ridge Trail, you will follow Baquaino Trail down the other side of the ridge to Pacifica. This is also unpaved and is very steep. Once in Pacifica, you will follow Highway 1 a short distance north and then return to the campus by climbing up Sharp Park Drive.

Starting Point

Skyline College, in San Bruno, is the starting point for the ride. There is plenty of parking on the campus, but during the week you must be careful to avoid parking areas requiring a permit. To get to the campus from the north, get off Highway 280 at Sneath Lane and follow Sneath Lane west to Skyline Boulevard. Turn right on Skyline Boulevard and proceed about _mile to the campus.

From the south, exit Highway 280 at the Skyline Boulevard and Pacifica off ramp. Follow Skyline Boulevard for about 2.5 miles to the campus. Start the mileage from the athletic field in the center of the campus.


Road surfaces are paved, except for about 4 miles on dirt trails with some very steep downhill sections. Some traffic is encountered on a section of Highway 1 for about _mile. Two climbs are required, with one very steep section on Sneath Lane.

Ride Details and Mile Markers

0.0 Proceed out of the campus on College Drive toward Skyline Boulevard.
0.5 Turn RIGHT onto Longview Drive.
0.6 Turn LEFT onto Moreland Drive.
0.8 Turn LEFT onto Riverside Drive.
0.9 Turn RIGHT onto Sneath Lane.
1.6 Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the gate, heading toward Sweeney Ridge.
3.2 Turn LEFT at the top of the ridge onto unpaved Sweeney Ridge Trail.
3.3 A historical marker is located on the hilltop to the left of the trail with sweeping views of the bay to the east and the ocean to the west. Continue STRAIGHT on Sweeney Ridge Trail at the intersection with Baquaino Trail on the right.
4.4 Gate marking the end of Sweeney Ridge Trail. Turn around and return the way you came.
5.4 Turn LEFT onto Baquaino Trail. Be careful, since this is a very steep descent.
6.4 Go past gate and then turn LEFT toward Fassler Avenue.
6.9 Continue STRAIGHT at the gate onto paved Fassler Avenue.
8.2 Turn RIGHT onto Highway 1 (Coast Highway).
8.8 CROSS OVER Highway 1 to use the bike path on the west side of the roadway.
9.1 Follow bike route signs to avoid this section of the highway. You will follow parallel to the highway on Bradford Way, along the golf course.
9.7 Sharp Park Golf Course clubhouse on the left.
9.8 Turn RIGHT onto Sharp Park Road and cross over freeway.
11.1 Turn RIGHT onto College Drive toward Skyline College campus.
11.5 Enter campus and turn RIGHT to loop around.
12.1 End of the ride at the athletic field.

© Article copyright Penngrove Publications. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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