San Francisco Top Trails

San Bruno Mountain
By David Weintraub
Key Info

0.0 – Go past information board, then right on Summit Loop Trail
0.1 – Left on Summit Loop Trail
0.3 – Eucalyptus Loop Trail on left; stay right
0.7 – Dairy Ravine Trail on left; go straight
0.9 – Ridge Trail on left; go straight
1.0 – Cross paved road, continue southwest on Summit Loop Trail
3.0 – Cross paved road, then left at junction, and retrace to parking area
3.1 – Back at parking area

Trail Use:
Hike, run
3.1 miles, 2-3 hours
Vertical Feet:
1 2 3 4 5 +
Trail Type:
Surface Type:

Mountain, summit, wildflowers, birds, great views, photo opportunity

Excerpted from Top Trails: San Francisco by David Weintraub

BEST VIEWS: There are many classic views of SanFrancisco, but my favorite (used on the cover of Top Trails, below) is from the Summit Loop Trail on San Bruno Mountain. This joint state-county park is an island in an urban sea, and hosts more than a dozen rare and/or endangered species of plants and animals. Pick a clear, fog-free day, and enjoy!

Finding the Trail
From Hwy. 101 northbound in San Francisco, take the Third St. exit (not well signed). Go 0.5 mile to Paul Ave., turn left, go 0.1 mile to San Bruno Ave., and turn left again. At 0.9 mile San Bruno Ave. joins Bayshore Blvd. Continue straight another 1.5 miles to Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy. and turn right. Go 2.2 miles to the park entrance, right. Just past the entry kiosk, turn right, passing the main parking area, pass under the bridge, and go 0.2 mile to a paved parking area on the south side of Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy. The trailhead is on the south side of the parking area.

From Hwy. 101 southbound in San Francisco, take the Cow Palace/Third St. exit, staying right toward the Cow Palace. At 0.3 mile you reach Bayshore Blvd. and go straight. Go another 1.8 miles to Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy., turn right, and follow the directions above.

Trail Description
After passing an information board and a map holder, you come to a junction and turn right on the Summit Loop Trail, a single track (shown as Summit Trail on the park map). Soon you reach a junction where the Summit Loop Trail divides. Here you stay left and climb through a eucalyptus forest.

After a switchback left, you pass the Eucalyptus Loop Trail, left, and bear right to stay on the Summit Loop Trail. As you gain elevation, the views of San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, and the East Bay hills become more and more dramatic. Where the Dairy Ravine Trail angles left, stay right on the Summit Loop Trail.

Gaining a ridgetop, you pass the Ridge Trail, left. Continue on the Summit Loop Trail to the paved road that climbs from the park entrance to just below the mountain's summit. Your route resumes on the other side of the road, just right of a metal gate across a paved driveway.

San Bruno Mountain itself is actually a long ridge, topped by communication towers, which angles northwest toward Daly City from Brisbane. The mountain, often fog-bound and buffeted by high winds, resembles an island rising above an urban sea of industrial and residential development. The mountain is home to more than a dozen rare or endangered plants, including several species of manzanita. The park also provides habitat for four species of endangered or threatened butterflies—San Bruno elfin, Mission blue, Callippe silverspot, and Bay checkerspot.

The trail zigzags its way downhill on a gentle grade past communication towers and satellite dishes to a paved road, which you cross. You traverse a canyon wall, descend a ridgetop, then follow the trail as it bends sharply right and slices across a hillside.

At the bottom of the canyon, the trail bends left, then veers right to cross April Brook. Now heading downstream, your route soon curves right, climbs on a moderate grade, and then levels. Several plank bridges help you cross areas that may be wet. You cross a paved road and then reach the junction where you began this loop. From here, turn left and retrace your route to the parking area.

Article © Wilderness Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 4 Oct 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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