Monday, May 28, 2007

Sweeney Ridge GGNRA - Sneath Lane to Portola Gate

This has to be one of the most underrated hikes on the San Francisco Peninsula. It has great views of the Bay -and- the Pacific Ocean plus includes the real "discovery" site of the San Francisco Bay Area -- made famous by Spanish Explorer Captain Juan Gaspar de Portola in 1769.

There are a couple different trailheads for the Sweeney Ridge area. For this hike I started at the Sneath Lane Trailhead. There is a small road side parking lot for about 12 cars, there is also ample parking up the road in the nearby neighborhood. Since this trail is very close to San Bruno Highlands area, it can get quiet busy on the weekends. The best time to take this hike is EARLY on a clear day.

There are no restrooms or maps at the trailhead, so its best to be prepared before you start the hike. The best MAP of the area can be found on the National Park Service site.

The Sneath Lane part of the hike is on a narrow paved road. The road is well maintained and makes for a good all-weather surface.

Quickly the hike introduces you to the San Andreas Reservoir to the south. This is part of the Peninsula Watershed and is off limits to the public since it is part of the public water system for the city of San Francisco.

The Sneath Lane road starts to become a moderate incline at the "Fog Line", which helps bikers and hikers on foggy days. On busy days it does help seperate the uphill and downhill traffic.

The hike continues to be a bit of a steep climb until you reach the bench that overlooks San Bruno mountain to the northeast.
At the crest of Sweeney Ridge, Sneath Lane meets with the Sweeney Ridge Trail. To the Left leads to the Portola Gate and to the right it leads to the Nike Missile Control Site. For this hike we headed south to the Portola Gate. This intersection is well marked and designates this part of the trail as the (incomplete) Bay Area Ridge Trail.

The southern part of the Sweeney Ridge Trail is a dirt road. The trail leads past the Portola Discovery Site which has two markers explaining the "discovery" of the San Francisco Bay Area by Captain Portola on November 4, 1769. The elevation here is 1220 feet and its the highest peak in the Sweeney Ridge area.

After the Discovery site the trail intersects with the Baquiano Trail which leads to Pacifica and Cattle Hill. Continuing on Sweeney Ridge Trail south, you will lose some elevation but its not much and the views of Montara Mountain and the Pacific Ocean are very nice.

After about a mile past the Discovery Site, you will reach the Portola Gate. This gate is at 1195 feet elevation. Be careful near the gate, there was a very active bee hive located in the gate pole on the day I was there.

From here you retrace your steps back down to the Sneath Lane Trailhead.

One reason this hike maybe not highlighted as a Top Hike is it does get popular on the weekends with hikers, dogs and mountain bikers. Luckily the trails are all very wide so there is ample room for everyone. The views are the best of both worlds on clear days, offering the best views the Bay Area and the Pacific Ocean. In addition, there are constant views of Pacifica, San Bruno & Montara Mountains, the Peninsula Watershed and even the San Francisco Airport (SFO).

More Photos

Area - Sweeney Ridge - Golden Gate National Recreational Area
Trail - Sneath Lane and Sweeney Ridge Trail (Trail Map)
Length - 6 miles Out and Back- Easy Hike (Moderate/Easy uphill)
Trail - Paved road to the ridge, dirt road from ridge to the Portola Gate. Well maintained and marked.
Dogs - Some -- good dog hike, since there are almost no foxtails or brush with ticks.
Bikes - Yes
View - Almost all views - San Andreas Reservoir, Montara Mountain, Pacific Ocean, Pacifica and more.
Getting There - Google Map Take 280 or 35 to Sneath Lane, head west until the road ends.
Fee- None, free parking
Weather - Avoid if foggy, almost no shade. Bring water and sunscreen on hot days.
Other Trails - there are other trails nearby including Mori Ridge and Baquiano