Home > Hike, Peninsula and South Bay, SamTrans > Sweeney Ridge and Milagra Ridge Along the Bay Area Ridge Trail

Sweeney Ridge and Milagra Ridge Along the Bay Area Ridge Trail

Sweeney Ridge

This excursion to Sweeney Ridge starts at the Skyline College trailhead and travels to the remains of one of the Bay Area’s Nike missile site control stations and on to a plaque at the site of Spanish explorer Juan Gaspar de Portola’s discovery of the San Francisco Bay. An optional side trip continues along the ridgeline (part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail) on the other side of Skyline College to Milagra Ridge. Milagra, the habitat of several rare and endangered species, also has military remains including a World War II gun battery.

Places visited: Sweeney Ridge (and Milagra Ridge on optional side trip), both part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area; segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail
Approximate Length:4.5 miles (7.75 miles with optional side trip to Milagra Ridge)
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours (4.5-6 hours total with optional side trip to Milagra Ridge)
Map: Skyline College campus, Sweeney Ridge (PDF), Milagra Ridge (PDF)
Terrain: Moderate ups and downs on dirt, stairs, and paved trails.
Transit schedule: SamTrans 140

Start and end point: SamTrans bus stop at Skyline College, San Bruno
Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take an SFO/Millbrae BART train to San Bruno. Exit the station at the Bus/Garage side and turn right for a 2-3 minute walk to the SamTrans bus area. Take SamTrans Route 140 to the Skyline College stop (this is not the end of the line, but will be an announced stop).
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay: San Bruno and Pacifica residents can pick up SamTrans Route 140 along its route from San Bruno BART to Pacific Manor Shopping Center in Pacifica. If you are north of San Bruno, take the SFO/Millbrae BART train (from Daly City, Colma, or South San Francisco) and follow the same directions for San Francisco. If you are south of San Bruno, you can either take BART  from Millbrae north to San Bruno, or take Caltrain and transfer at Millbrae to BART. On weekends, the northbound BART train will go through SFO and then to San Bruno, and will be an SF/Pittsburg/Bay Point train. Exit the station at the Bus/Garage side and turn right for 2-3 minute walk to the SamTrans bus area. Take SamTrans Route 140 to the Skyline College stop (this is not the end of the line, but will be an announced stop).
  • From the East Bay, take an SFO/Millbrae BART train to San Bruno. If you are coming from a line other than Pittsburg/Bay Point on the weekend, you will transfer to the SFO/Millbrae train at either MacArthur or 12th Street. Exit the station at the Bus/Garage side and turn right for a 2-3 minute walk to the SamTrans bus area. Take SamTrans Route 140 to the Skyline College stop (this is not the end of the line, but will be an announced stop).
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at the Hyde St. and Grove St. (just before Market Street). Walk to Market St. and down the stairs into Civic Center BART station. Take an SFO/Millbrae BART train to San Bruno. Exit the station at the Bus/Garage side and turn right for a 2-3 minute walk to the SamTrans bus area. Take SamTrans Route 140 to the Skyline College stop (this is not the end of the line, but will be an announced stop).

Notes:

  • Sweeney Ridge and Milagra Ridge can be foggy, especially in the summer. Bring extra layers for this hike, as this ridgetop is also exposed to the wind in parts.
  • This route is structured so that you visit Sweeney Ridge first, with the option of continuing on to Milagra Ridge. Feel free to reverse the trip, or go only to Milagra Ridge if you wish. If you visit Sweeney Ridge first, however, you will be able to see Milagra Ridge ahead of you on the way back to the college and get a good idea whether it will be foggy or clear.
  • Pack a lunch or snack for this hike, as there are nice spots to sit and enjoy the view near the Portola Discovery site. There aren’t many food options except at the Tanforan Mall, which is at the San Bruno BART station and SamTrans 140 stop. If you wish to stop at the food court (standard food court fare; there are also restrooms here), walk straight ahead as you exit the BART station. When you enter the mall, you will be in the food court.
  • On weekends the SamTrans bus runs at hour intervals, and the last bus leaves Skyline College at 6:20 pm. To time your hike so that you are not waiting too long for the bus at the end of your hike, make a note of how long it takes you to get from Skyline College to the Discovery Site, and assume the same time to return. Then you can decide how long you want to spend at the Discovery site and/or exploring the Nike missile site remains. The bus stop has a lawn beside it and is a pleasant place to wait for the bus.
  • During daylight savings time, Peninsula residents could easily do this as an early evening hike on weekdays (the last 140 bus leaves Skyline at 10:45 pm).  Also on weekday evenings, SamTrans 121 runs up until 10:18 pm from Skyline College to Colma and Daly City BART.
  • The National Park Service has a short essay on the Portola Discovery Site, in addition to the information provided in the map and brochure listed above.
  • Milagra Ridge is quite small, and you will note that other trails cross and loop to and from the suggested route. Once you have entered Milagra Ridge, feel free to wander on your own to get to different vantage points in the park.

Directions:

  • From the Skyline College bus stop, head south (not into the campus), across the street and to the stairs that are signed as going to Parking Lot 2. Take the stairs through a grove of trees, and head across the parking lot towards the far left corner.
  • At the corner of the lot, you will see parking spaces marked for the GGNRA, and a small sign leading to the Sweeney Ridge trail.
  • Take the narrow trail up for a short distance and turn right at the junction where the trail becomes wider. Make a mental note of this trail, so that you will remember it on the return trip.
  • Continue on the trail until you reach a small building, no longer in use. You may get some good views from here out to the coast.
  • Continue to the right of the building, following the Sweeney Ridge trail sign. Here the trail heads down nicely built stairs into the ravine and back up again.
  • At the trail juncture turn left. (Right heads down the Mori Ridge Trail to Pacifica).
  • Continue to the complex of building remains, which was once a Nike missile control site. Take some time to explore here, or you can continue on and plan to stop here on the return trip.
  • Continue straight (not left and down the hill) at the juncture with the paved Sneath Lane Trail.
  • Shortly after passing the Sneath Lane Trail, look for a sign and a small trail off to the left, heading to the Portola Discovery site.
  • At the Discovery Site you can stop here to read the plaque and rest. If you continue to walk a bit to your left, there are some nice spots to sit and look down at the reservoir below.
  • When you are ready, head back out to the Sweeney Ridge Trail and back the way you came.
  • Pass the Sneath Lane Trail on your right.
  • Pass the Nike Missile Site remains on your left, stopping to explore for awhile if you wish.
  • Stay right at the intersection with the Mori Ridge trail.
  • Take the stairs down and then up out of the ravine.
  • Pass around the small building to continue on the trail.
  • When you are almost back to the college again, keep an eye out for the narrower trail heading off to the left from the main trail. Take this trail back to the parking lot.
  • Cross the parking lot and take the stairs back to the bus stop. If you are ending your trip here, congratulations – you made it!
  • If continuing on to Milagra Ridge, follow the directions below.

——-

Optional trip to Milagra Ridge:

  • From the bus stop, you want to travel to the opposite side (north) of the Skyline College campus. Ideally, you would be able to walk straight through the campus, with some Bay Area Ridge Trail markers along the way to guide you. At the time of this writing (Fall 2009), however, construction is taking place on the campus requiring a detour. During the construction period, you may need to instead turn left from the bus stop and follow the campus around through the parking lots. The campus is quite small, so this is not an inconvenient detour if you need to make it.
  • Whichever way you end up cutting across campus, you will end up at College Road. Look for the road as it heads north and away from the campus. A bit to the right of this road is a crosswalk. Cross at this crosswalk and start walking out the road away from campus, on the right-hand sidewalk.
  • The sidewalk ends as Ysabel Drive starts to parallel College Road on your right. Head over to Ysabel and continue walking north, paralleling College Drive.
  • Pass Sunset Drive on your right.
  • As Ysabel ends and veers to the right to become Highland Drive, you will see a gap in the fence where you can return to College Drive.
  • Your destination is straight across Sharp Park Road, but you will see that there is no crosswalk on this side. Instead, cross to the other side of College Road, cross Sharp Park drive, and then (carefully watching for traffic), cross again and turn left onto the sidewalk.
  • Walk past housing on your right until you reach the entrance to Milagra Ridge.
  • Passing into Milagra Ridge, take the paved road straight ahead of you. (The small dirt trail on your left is where you will return from the loop through Milagra Ridge.)
  • Stay on the paved trail as you pass buildings on your left and then dirt trails on your left.
  • As the trail curves left, you reach an intersection with dirt trails. Take the dirt trail heading left, which leads to stairs.
  • Take the stairs, and continue straight (not left) on the trail. Here you may have a good viewpoint if the weather is clear.
  • Continue on stairs that curve left and back to a wider trail. Turn right to explore the World War II gun battery area.
  • When you turn around after exploring the gun battery area, you see three trails. Take the far right of the three.
  • At the next split, stay right, and then continue to stay right as the trail splits again.
  • As the road curves around and splits again, stay right on the narrower trail.
  • Soon you reach a connector back to the trail that you came in on, but you will continue straight here. Take the stairs, following the trail as it makes a sharp curve to the right.
  • Pass around a small reservoir, where you may have some views if the weather is clear.
  • As the trail ends at the park entrance, turn right and head out to the street.
  • Walk on the sidewalk on the left side of the road, past the housing complex.
  • At the intersection of Sharp Park, use the crosswalks and lights to cross to your right, then cross Sharp Park, and finally turn left to cross College Road. Continue walking, and turn right onto Ysabel Drive to parallel College Road.
  • Pass Sunset Drive on your left.
  • As Ysabel ends, continue straight onto the College Road sidewalk.
  • At the T intersection with the campus perimeter road, turn left. Very shortly, cross at the crosswalk and onto the campus.
  • Head through campus (either straight through or, if construction is present, to the right and through the parking lots) to the bus stop. Congratulations, you made it!
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  1. October 9, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Looks like a hardy hike.

  2. October 11, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This is a great resource that you’re providing. When I lived in Berkeley I didn’t have a car. Four years of “getting out” usually meant climbing the Berkeley fire trail. Once we took BART and a series of busses to Baker Beach. I wish we had the internet and this blog back then.

    Keep up the good work,

    Andy

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