Sweeney Ridge Trail
and Portola Discovery Site
The Sweeney Ridge Trail runs along the ridge between Pacifica and San Bruno. Besides outstanding views of both the Pacific Ocean & San Francisco Bay and good exercise there is an old Nike missile command post (disarmed 1974) and the Portola Discovery Site (where the Gaspar de Portola expedition made the first European discovery of SF Bay in 1769).
- Mori Ridge Trail: Fire road starts near Highway 1 in Pacifica. This is our favorite because of the beautiful Pacific Ocean views. We also like visiting Shelldance Orchid Gardens nursery at the trailhead. 1.3 miles to the intersection with Sweeney Ridge, 4 miles roundtrip to Discovery Site, 1020 ft. elevation change.
- Skyline College/Notch Trail: The north end of the trail starts at Milagra Ridge Park or Skyline College. You can access Sweeney Ridge Trail from several places at Skyline College including the the south side of Parking Lot #2 (from here you must cross two steep, eroded slopes to get to the ridge level). This trail, roughly along the top of the ridge, is flatter than the others but is sometimes not well marked. See Map to roughly show you the way. 4.2 miles roundtrip to Discovery Site, 700 ft. elevation change.
- Sneath Lane Trail: Fire road starts at the west end of Sneath Lane in San Bruno (near the SF County Jail). This is a fairly steep paved road with Bay views that is the shortest direct distance to the Portola Discovery Site (located just to the south once you reach the ridge). 3.2 miles round-trip to Discovery Site, 540 ft. elevation change.
- Bacquiano Trail: Starts at the east end of Fassler Ave, Pacifica. Many historians believe this was the route Portola took to Discovery Point from the beach. We haven’t tried this one yet. No parking at trailhead and the beginning ascent is said to be steep and not well maintained. 2+ miles round trip to Discovery Site, 550 ft. elevation change.
Portola Discovery Site
Located on the Sweeney Ridge Trail just north of the intersection with Sneath Lane Trail are two monuments. One honors the Portola Expedition with the inscription “From this ridge, the Portola Expedition discovered San Francisco Bay – Nov. 4, 1769.” The other dark granit cylinder has an arrow pointing north; around the sides are images of prominent topographical features such as the Farallon Islands (25 miles away), Point Reyes, Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo, and Mount Hamilton. From this 1220 foot high location you can see 30 miles away in all directions on a clear day.
- Sweeny Ridge Trail Map
- Sweeney Ridge Trails Brochure and Trails Guide
- Mori Ridge Trail and Shelldance Orchid Gardens Nursery – The parking lot at Shelldance is where the Mori Ridge Trail begins.
- Sneath Lane Trail – Access from the San Bruno side which starts near the jailhouse.
- Other very good trails nearby on the Pacific Ocean side include Mori Point, Pedro Point Headlands, Devil’s Slide, Montara Mountain Hike, Grey Whale Cove Trail
- Early San Francisco History – Brief history of San Francisco
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