Crystal Springs Regional Trail


7 Reviews

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Crystal Springs Regional Trail Facts

States: California
Counties: San Mateo
Length: 16.5 miles
Trail end points: San Andreas Trailhead (755 San Andreas Trail, San Bruno) to CA 92/Half Moon Bay Rd (San Mateo) and CA 92/Half Moon Bay Rd & Cañada Rd (San Mateo) to Huddart County Park
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Dirt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6539922

Crystal Springs Regional Trail Description

The Crystal Springs Regional Trail offers tranquil views of two long, narrow reservoirs and a lake that sit atop the San Andreas Rift Zone, a geologic fault that shook violently in the destructive 1906 San Francisco earthquake and others.

The trail runs down a ridge on the San Francisco Peninsula between San Bruno and Woodside and consists of three sections: (from north to south) the 2.6-mile San Andreas section and the 7.2-mile Sawyer Camp section, which make up a connected segment intersecting near where I-280 exits onto Hillcrest Boulevard in Millbrae, and the 6.7-mile Crystal Springs segment.

The two contiguous northern segments are mostly wide, paved, and reasonably graded, except for the southernmost 0.6-mile section of the San Andreas segment. Due to the steeper grade and narrow gravel surface, this stretch is accessible only to walkers and equestrians. To avoid it, bicyclists, skaters, and wheelchair users are directed to take Skyline Boulevard via Larkspur Drive and Hillcrest Boulevard. The Crystal Springs segment is dirt and open only to walkers and horse riders. It is maintained by San Mateo County, which does not allow pets.

The northernmost trailhead with parking is located a half mile south of the trail endpoint at San Bruno Avenue. The San Andreas section features views of San Andreas Reservoir at the foot of Sweeney Ridge.  

The Sawyer Camp section begins at Hillcrest Boulevard. It’s considered the busiest trail section in San Mateo County and has a posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Spanish explorers followed this route in the 16th century, and it later became a wagon road that led to a lodge operated in the mid-1800s by landowner Leander Sawyer. The trail heads downhill and away from the interstate at the southern end of the San Andreas Reservoir and crosses a dam. You’ll pass through a forest that offers shade and places for picnicking. This area is also home to deer and other wildlife, as well as the Jepson laurel, said to be 600 years old and the largest such tree in the state.

The Crystal Springs Reservoir emerges about 2.3 miles past the dam, offering pleasant views in clearings for the next 4.5 miles to the end of the Sawyer Camp section at CA 35/Skyline Boulevard and CA 92/Half Moon Bay Road. A dam here separates the upper and lower reservoirs.

The Crystal Springs segment begins 0.5 mile south on CA 92 at Cañada Road. This dirt track on the western side of the right-of-way is suitable only for hiking, jogging, and equestrian use. Bicyclists can use the shoulder of Cañada Road in this area.

In 2.3 miles, the Pulgas Water Temple serves as an intriguing destination consisting of a Corinthian-columned temple erected by the City of San Francisco to commemorate the achievement of bringing water to the area. Visitors can refill their water bottles straight from the spring. In 2.5 miles, the trail runs alongside I-280 and then turns southwest for a mile to the boundary of 974-acre Huddart Park.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking for the San Andreas/Sawyer Camp segment can be found along Skyline Boulevard (State Route 35) near John Muir Elementary School and at the trailhead located at the intersection of Crystal Springs Road and Skyline Boulevard (SR 35).

Parking for the Crystal Springs segment is available at the trail's northern endpoint at the intersection of Half Moon Bay Road (SR 92) and Skyline Boulevard (SR 35).

Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.

Crystal Springs Regional Trail Reviews

TT/Triathlon Bike Ride North Trailhead Sawyer Camp Trail - Intersection of 35/92

So obviously I'm not from around here. A transplant from DC where the traffic is much worse and so is every driver (skill/courtesy) in the Capital Region.

I did several laps starting at the North Trailhead Sawyer Camp Trail (vicinity E. Hillcrest Blvd) down to the Intersection of Skyline Blvd & 35/92 and back. Most everyone was courteous and aware, which is a plus and something alien for me (DC trails are notorious for self-absorbed, totally unaware, and rather rude walker, joggers, cyclists, et al (EXCEPT Indianhead Trail in MD - an AWESOME rail-to-trail to clock in 26 mile laps if you're preparing for long-distance rides).

That said, the volume of folks on the trail, combined with the twisty-turny route (fun but not if you're supposed to be down in the aerobars) is probably not the best place to put miles on the saddle if you're training for distance cycling (sic Ironman) on a TT/triathlon bike... but road bike, mountain, or cyclo-cross sport bike would be preferred.

The trail surface varies from smooth paved, to a slightly ribbed potions that aren't that bad. Uh, at least 6 bathrooms (clean with good locks). I didn't see (wasn't really looking for) any water stations. It's somewhat hilly but not a lung-buster. Lot's of free speed (downhills) and even the false flats any momentum can be maintained.

The scenery is great and whatever flowers were blooming were a good offset to my odor-de-triathlete. Lots of tree canopy cover and a nice breeze to keep cool. One rather large deer crossed my path... good thing to keep at least one hand on the brakes.

All in all, a great place to road/mountain bike = five stars (three stars if you're riding a Tri-bike =)

Sawyer Camp Recreational Trail

Thursday, January 3, 2019
My wife and I started this ride at the northern most entrance at the corner of San Bruno Avenue West and Skyline Blvd. We parked at a dirt church parking lot across from the trail head that a sign said was open to the public. TrailLinks indicates there is parking at the San Andrea Trail parking lot about a ½ mile down the trail along Skyline Blvd. It not really a parking lot but more of a wide spot on the road. I actually didn’t recognize it on the first pass as there was only one car parked there.
Heading south from the trail head (you begin on the two lane paved San Andreas Trail) you begin a rolling incline as you ride along next to Skyline Road. After about 3 miles you will top out as you head toward the San Andreas Lake and begin a long 400 foot drop over the next mile or two to the San Andreas Dam. Pedaling is optional and by this time you have passed at least one bathroom…expect to see more.
By the time you reach the dam, you will be on the Sawyer Camp Recreational Trail. The view from the dam was spectacular, particularly as it is quite green this time of year. There are plenty of tree covered sections to make you really feel you are outdoors. A pretty nice feeling for being in the “city”. There are also several historic sites marked along the trail.
After crossing the dam your drop further down into the creek. The trees provide quite a bit of shading which would be good in the summer months but got quite chilly for our ride. There are picnic tables and of course, another bathroom.
You will eventually end up along the shore of the Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir. Again, spectacular views and a ton of friendly deer. We also began to encounter more and more hikers as this section is easily accessible from the entrance at the Sawyer Camp trail head next to the Crystal Springs Road and is pretty flat all the way to the bottom of the San Andreas Dam. Not too much of a problem for our week day winter ride, but I expect this would get very crowded on weekends and summer.
We made our turnaround at the Sawyer Camp Trailhead (10 miles from our start) but not before making a side trip about a mile and a half north UP Hwy 35 to the Crystal Springs Golf course for lunch. The menu was typical bar food. The cheeseburger was huge and tasty. I would suggest splitting one as it came with a very large order of fries (my wife got onion rings). It was a small restaurant/bar overlooking the driving range.
My wife and I have Specialized Como electric bikes so the pedal assisted ride back up the trail was not difficult. But the incline was not that steep and was steady over a couple miles. Good gearing and little patience should not dampen your ride.

Total round trip (including the 1-1/2 mile one way side trip for lunch) was 22 miles.

This was our first ride of 2019 on a route we had never been before and we have lived in the Bay Area for 30 years. A hearty thanks to TrailLink for highlighting this on their web page!

great for kids

I did the 11 mile round trip from the Southern Sawyer Camp trailhead to the San Andreas Lake dam and back with my nine year old daughter on a Saturday morning in June 2017. It was her third bike ride of this length and was a big hit. Parking can be tight and the first two or three (freshly paved)miles are crowded with pedestrians, but otherwise perfect for an extended and interesting trip with a child. Unlike a lot of flat paths around the Bay Area, this one has lots of interesting curves and varied scenery. The last stretch to the dam is uphill and a but of a challenge for small ones, but also brings a sense of accomplishment. Highly recommended.





I ran here for the first time starting at the Sawyer Camp Trail entrance and absolutely loved it! I got there around 8:30am, which was perfect because parking gets crazy! The trail is scenic throughout and covers you from the sun from the most part. I will definitely be back!

Closed for Bridge Construction

I was really looking forward to this ride today. I tried the Northern part, but all trail access points were closed for bridge construction. I will try it again after the construction.

Amazing View

Really enjoyed this bike ride. If you're looking for something extremely flat and scenic and paved this is the trail for you. Make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks with you. What's nice is there are bathrooms on the trail¿

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