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Crystal Springs Trail

A paradise for walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrians, the popular 15-mile-long Crystal Springs Trail winds through gorgeous scenery and past historical treasures.

The Crystal Springs Regional Trail is the place to see and be seen on weekends in San Mateo County. The north-south trail is more than 15 miles long and has three distinct segments running alongside a duo of reservoirs that offer scenic views and serve as emergency water supplies for San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

Open sunrise to sunset, the trail is wildly popular with the local fit folk. Plus, there’s no dealing with traffic lights, and there are regularly spaced restroom facilities (but no drinking water).

Travelling along the San Andreas faultline offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Trail segments and nearby towns and parks are named for historical figures like the Portola Expedition party and Leander Sawyer, a local landowner who allegedly used the trail route to access an inn he operated for traveling horsemen.

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In north to south order, the trail is comprised of the following three sections:

San Andreas (5 miles)
The San Andreas segment is the first part of the trail you reach if travelling southbound from San Francisco. From Skyline Blvd/Hwy 35, enter via an opening in a chain link fence at San Bruno Avenue (there is no dedicated parking at this entrance).

The paved path winds through the trees with a few gentle rolling hills.

At the end of this segment, there is a stretch of gravel that bikes typically avoid by turning onto a frontage road east of the highway and rejoining the trail .7 miles to the south at the beginning of the Sawyer Camp segment.

You can access San Bruno Avenue from Highway 280; traveling west 1 mile will bring you to Skyline Blvd.

Sawyer Camp (6 miles)
The Sawyer Camp section in the middle is the most popular. Parked cars pack into gravel pull-outs along Skyline Boulevard where it intersects Crystal Springs Road and Hillcrest Boulevard, the two main access points. The paved path is often crowded with run clubs, joggers, kids learning to ride bikes and families out for walks. The flat Sawyer Camp segment has very minimal elevation change.

The trail was originally paved in 1978, and there are benches and picnic areas throughout.

Crystal Springs
The southernmost segment of the Crystal Springs Trail is unpaved and primarily open to walkers and equestrians. Cyclists can enjoy a sense of the trail because it runs parallel to the luxuriously wide bike lanes of Canada Road, which is closed to vehicle traffic on Sundays from 9am to 3pm. Canada takes cyclists and drivers into Woodside, while the southern end of the trail connects to Huddart County Park.

The southern stretch of trail is also home to the Filoli Estate and the Pulgas Water Temple, which is worth a visit. Now a popular wedding venue, the elegant stone temple was constructed in 1934 to celebrate the transportation of water to the Bay Area from Hetch Hetchy, 160 miles away in the Sierra Nevada range.

MAKE A BEELINE HERE IF YOU WANT TO: Put on your best spandex, strap on your hydration belt and log some solid training miles.

NOT HAPPENING HERE: Hiking or exploration of the incredible biodiversity surrounding Crystal Springs Reservoir. Fences line the trail on both sides to keep people away from the protected water sources.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: The Jepson Laurel tree in the middle of the Sawyer Camp segment. More than 600 years old, it’s the oldest known laurel in California.

—Kelsey Farabee

950 Skyline Blvd, Burlingame, CA. 650.573.2592. Learn more at the official Crystal Springs Regional Trail website.

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