The Crystal Springs Regional Trail is a planned 17.5-mile trail that, when finished, will extend from San Bruno to Woodside. 15.3 miles of the trail are now complete. It provides an alternative recreational route to the 1,210-mile Juan Bautista DeAnza National Historic Trail.
The trail serves over 325,000 visitors annually. People of all ages can be seen on a given day, from parents with children in strollers to distance runners. Uses for the trail include walking, running, skating/rollerblading, bicycling and horseback riding.
The trail is divided into three segments (north to south):
Safety First for all Crystal Springs Trail Users Crystal Springs Regional Trail is highly popular with various types of users – hikers, joggers, bicyclists, equestrians, and families pushing strollers. We want trail use to be safe for everyone. Be respectful of all on the trail and know the rules of the road.
Closure on San Andreas Segment for Path Repair A culvert failure from the heavy rains of last December has caused the collapse of the unpaved section of the San Andreas segment of Crystal Springs Regional Trail, between Larkspur Drive and Hillcrest Blvd. The trail segment has been rendered impassable and unsafe for users, and will remain closed as the Parks Department secures permits and plans for repair. A detour has been provided on the frontage road along Skyline Blvd.
Homestead Pond Habitat Restoration Coming to a Successful Close
The original trailhead for Crystal Springs Trail off Cañada Road near Edgewood Road is now re-opened, as restoration work enlarging Homestead Pond and replacing non-native eucalyptus trees and other vegetation with native trees and grasses comes to an end. All signs point to a successful restoration. Transplanted willows are budding, juvenile frogs and newts are feeding in the newly enlarged pond, baby birds such as Killdeer are learning to fly, while garter snakes slither through the grass. Crews will continue to plant, monitor and maintain the site through 2013 and beyond.
Bypass Opens on Sand Trail A bypass has been provided while the Sand Trail portion of Crystal Springs Regional Trail, located south of Edgewood Road, is closed. The bypass continues to provide passage as work resumes in late April or early May to complete the site.
Crystal Springs Dam Bridge Closure
The Crystal Springs Dam Bridge is to remain closed for four years beginning October 25th, 2010. North and southbound traffic on Skyline Boulevard, both automobile and bicycle, have been re-routed. Access from the south on Sawyer Camp segment is blocked and an alternate path identified. More info about the Dam Bridge Replacement Project at Department of Public Works. More info about the Dam Closure at SFPUC. See the detour map.
The San Andreas segment extends from Cambridge Lane on the north to Hillcrest Blvd. on the south where it connects to the Sawyer Camp segment. In its northerly section this segment travels alongside (and offers beautiful views of) San Andreas Reservoir. It is paved and heavily used by bicyclists, joggers and hikers. The southerly 0.7 mile is gravel-surfaced and not passable by bicycles, which must detour to the frontage road east of I-280
Restrooms can be found about midway between the northern access point and the bike detour; and near the southern end where the segment meets the Sawyer Camp segment.
It is hoped that someday this segment will connect at its northern end with the Sweeney Ridge Trail, which leads to the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site. The Portola Expedition crossed over Sweeney Ridge in 1769 and became the first Western party to lay eyes on this area and what is now San Francisco Bay. The original inhabitants of the area were the Shalshone tribe.
The area received its name from Portola's chaplain and diarist, Father Francisco Palou, who named it San Andreas in honour of the saint's feast day. Descending Sweeney Ridge, Portola made camp in an area that is now beneath the waters of San Andreas Lake. A sign at the trail entrance on Hillcrest Boulevard points to the spot.
The Sawyer Camp segment of the Crystal Springs Regional Trail extends from Hillcrest Blvd. on the north to Crystal Springs Road on the south, and is probably the best known length of trail in San Mateo County. More people know it and use it than all the other trails in the County Park System.
The trail, which is paved and marked for two-way traffic, is well utilized by bicyclists, hikers, joggers, and equestrians. It is wheelchair accessible. Please note: there are no drinking fountains along this trail. Bring drinking water.
The Sawyer Camp segment has restrooms near its northern and southern access points and about halfway along its length (2.5 miles from the north end of the segment and 3.5 from the south end of the segment). Picnic areas can also be found at the halfway point and near the parking lot off Crystal Springs Road.
Midway along the Sawyer Camp segment is where one will find the 600+ year old Jepson Laurel.
Sawyer - The Man and The Road
It's unknown from whom Leander Sawyer bought the land, but he became active in this area in 1853. He probably lived in a small adobe built near a natural spring in the hill, just southwest of the Laurel. This was remembered by some very old timers of the area. No trace of it remains today.
The Sawyer Camp Trail was Sawyer's access to his camp (south of the Laurel tree) where old timers say he kept an inn to dispense food to picnickers, and to serve as lodging for horsemen traveling through the area. Later, the trail was used by the stagecoach from Millbrae, which connected with the San Mateo Stageline to Half Moon Bay (Spanish Town). During the 1850's and 60's, Sawyer grazed cattle in the area to keep down the brush and make a better area for incoming wagons.
Sawyer Camp Trail, later called San Andreas Valley Road, or simply Valley Road, was once the main highway between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. Wagons pulled by teams of horses hauled wood over the road. Much of the old road was flooded by Crystal Springs Reservoir by 1888.
When the city of San Francisco took over the watershed lands, narrow, winding Sawyer Camp Trail was then a county road. The Water Department fenced it for the protection of San Francisco's drinking water. In 1978, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors designated the road a non-vehicular recreation trail and paved it for bicycles with funds provided by the State Department of Parks and Recreation.
This segment currently starts at Highway 92 on the north and runs along the westerly right-of-way of Cañada Road. For the most part it is removed from the traveled way. The northern part of the segment affords views of Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir and communicates with the Belmont trail system, via Sheep Camp Trail. To the south the segment passes a number of interesting destinations including the Pulgas Water Temple, the Filoli Center, the Phleger Estate, and Edgewood County Park. At its south end the segment touches the southern boundary of the Peninsula Watershed, turns westerly, merging with Raymundo Drive and enters Huddart County Park. On the other side of Huddart park it connects to Skyline Trail.
The Crystal Springs Segment is available for use by hikers, joggers, and equestrians, but not bicyclists. However, during the regular county event, Bicycle Sunday, a 2.5-mile segment of Cañada Road between 92 and Edgewood Road is closed to vehicles and bicyclists and other non-vehicle users can enjoy the road that parallels this trail segment.
Restrooms are found near the Pulgas Water Temple.
What To See at Crystal Springs Regional Trail
This is a highly scenic area that features various habitats, from old growth Douglas fir forests to chaparrals and wetlands. The trail parallels the Coastal Range ridge, the backbone of the Peninsula, and traces the east side of Crystal Springs and San Andreas Reservoirs, which fill the rift along the San Andreas fault line and provide water to San Francisco and the Peninsula.
Ducks, hawks and numerous small birds can be seen overhead or in the surrounding oaks and madrones. Over 180 different species of birds have been identified. Deer, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes and rattlesnakes are often spotted. Recent sightings of mountain lions have also occurred. The pristine Watershed area surrounding the trail is recognized by the California Department of Fish and Game as a Fish Wildlife Refuge and is considered a Biosphere Reserve.
Prepare for a safe and enjoyable visit to Crystal Springs Regional Trail and other San Mateo County Parks by being aware of your natural environment.
The Jepson Laurel
Midway along the Sawyer Camp segment of the trail you will find the Jepson Laurel, a tree that has been established to be over 600 years old and is now the oldest and largest known Laurel in California. In 1923, this tree was named in honor of Willis Linn Jepson, a noted California botanist. At that time, there was only one larger Laurel known in the state. It grew along the Russian River near Cloverdale, but was cut down because it shaded too much hayfield. The Jepson Laurel was finally fenced to protect it from soil compaction, which could conceivably weaken its roots. The San Francisco Water Department, on whose property it is located, has assumed the tree's preservation and protection. In 1981, the San Mateo County Parks Department, on permit from the Water Department, opened the area near the tree and constructed a new picnic area. California Laurel (Umbellularia californica), also known as Bay Tree, Pepperwood, or Oregon Myrtle, has a wood, which is heavy, hard, fine-grained, and exceptionally strong.
Pulgas Water Temple
The Pulgas Water Temple is a stone structure inspired by classical Greek and Roman architecture, featuring Corinthian capitals and fluted columns, beside which is a tree-lined reflecting pool.The City of San Francisco built it to celebrate the achievement that brought water from Hetch Hetchy to the Bay Area. Learn more about the Pulgas Water Temple at the SFPUC web site.
Crystal Springs Regional Trail offers the following facilities:
Rest areas (benches)
Picnic tables and benches approximately halfway along the Sawyer Camp segment, near the Jepson Laurel.
There are no drinking fountains along Crystal Springs Regional Trail. Bring drinking water.
Future Improvement Projects
In an effort to combine all segments into one cohesive Crystal Springs Regional Trail, the Parks Department will be working to convert existing service roads into user-friendly trails, providing amenities such as benches, kiosks, signs, and restrooms. Two areas of focus are: South of Crystal Springs Dam and South of Highway 92. These areas span between Sawyer Camp and Crystal Springs segments of the trail. See the trail map.
Directions to the Trail
To San Andreas segment
From I-280 South- Take the San Bruno Ave exit. Make a right on San Bruno Ave. to Skyline Blvd. Turn left on Skyline. Drive one-half mile to the trail entrance. Park along the road.
From I-280 North- Take Highway 35/Pacifica exit. The trail entrance is about 1 mile from the exit on your left. Park along the road.
To Sawyer Camp segment
South Entrance in San Mateo - From I-280 (north or south) take Black Mountain Road/Hayne Road Exit. Go west to Skyline Blvd, then south on Skyline one mile to trail entrance at the junction of Skyline Blvd. and Crystal Springs Road.
North Entrance in Millbrae (Southbound) - From southbound I-280 take the Larkspur/Hillcrest Blvd. exit to Skyline Blvd. Take a right on Skyline Blvd. to Hillcrest Blvd. Make a right on Hillcrest Blvd. to the trail entrance.
North Entrance in Millbrae (Northbound) - From northbound I-280 take the Milbrae Ave exit. Continue straight ahead onto Skyline Blvd. to Hillcrest Blvd. Make a left on Hillcrest Blvd. to trail entrance.
SamTrans buses provide service to key destinations throughout San Mateo County and San Francisco, such as work, schools, malls, civic centers and parks. Please visit SamTrans web site to find out how you can take one of their buses to this park.
See a map to find parking and access points to the trail. In general the best parking is to be found in the parking lots around the Sawyer Camp segment of the trail. There is also street parking a long Cañada Road.
Days and Hours of Operation
Crystal Springs Regional Trail is open every day of the year including all holidays. It opens daily at sunrise and closes at sunset.
If you are an individual or an organization interested in volunteering, please contact Crystal Springs Regional Trail or the San Mateo County Parks Volunteer Program.
To preserve the natural environment of Crystal Springs Regional Trail, all plants, animals and natural features are protected.
Fishing and hunting are not permitted per California State Fish and Game Regulation
Picking or removing wildflowers or other natural material is prohibited.
No fires or barbecues are permitted in this area.
Cutting and gathering of wood is prohibited.
Dogs and other pets are not allowed.
Bicycles are permitted only on the paved trail and in established parking areas.
All trail users should obey posted speed limits.
Firearms and other weapons are prohibited.
Loud radios and the playing of amplified musical instruments are not permitted.