Sweeney Ridge & Portola Discovery CA


• 4-star hike
• 2.5 to 4.1 mile options
• Easy/Medium difficulty | Gain 560 to 920 feet
• Pacifica, CA | San Francisco Bay Area
• Driving Directions: Mori, Sneath, Skyline, Baquiano


The Notch, on the Skyline College trail.

Twelve hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Sweeney Ridge trail traverses the most northerly part of the Santa Cruz coastal range. Up here you can explore the former site of the 1950s Nike missile base, or step further back in time and visit the spot where Gaspar de Portola first discovered the San Francisco bay for the European explorers in 1769.

There are several different approaches to Sweeney Ridge and we've identified the best ones for you to choose between.

Mori to Nike, Sneath to Discovery, Skyline to Discovery, Baquiano to Discovery Sweeney Ridge to Boundary Gate


Mori Ridge to Nike Base 4★
3.1 mi, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 920 ft
Our favourite route up to Sweeney Ridge starts next to the Shelldance Nursery parking lot. Approach on Route 1 from the South, and take a sharp turn up the hill at the 'Orchids' sign. This trail provides excellent views towards San Francisco before reaching the site of the former Nike missile base. The return journey is even more picturesque as you look out over the Pacific Ocean. There's one particularly steep stretch of trail, that you might have to tread carefully. Add 0.5 miles each way if you want to check out the discover site at the opposite end of the ridgeline.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Sneath Lane to Discovery Site 3★
3.3 mi, Out & Back, Easy, Gain 600 ft
This wide paved road offers an gentle incline up the mountain. Views over the peninsula towards the picturesque bay. If you'd like to bring your bicycles up to the ridgeline, then this is the way to do it.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails


Down Sneath Lane trail, with a distant Mt Diablo across the Bay.

Skyline College to Discovery Site 4★
4.1 mi, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 890 ft
Our second favourite way to Sweeney Ridge beginning at the college parking lot. Starts with some great views towards the Pacific ocean, then the peninsula, before tackling a notch in the hillside with a set of steps on each side.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Baquiano Trail to Discovery Site 3★
2.6 mi, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 560 ft
One of the lesser frequented trails on Sweeney Ridge is also the shortest as it starts half-way up the mountain at the end of Fassler Avenue in the Linda Mar region of Pacifica. Start out with the hardest part - around 300 feet of switchbacks, then follow the sloping ridge to the top.
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails


On the Baquiano Trail, leading up to Sweeney Ridge.

Sweeney Ridge to Boundary Gate
1.2 mi, Out & Back, Easy, Gain 50ft
From the Portola Discovery Site, Sweeney Ridge continues South for a further 1.2 miles before reaching a locked gate indicating the restricted access above the San Andreas Lake, which is used as a reservoir for public drinking water.

We recommend these trails during all seasons. You might like to check out the weather before setting off because cloud and coastal fog can obscure the views on occasions, though even hiking through fog up here can still be quite appealing.


The Portola Discovery Site, on Sweeney Ridge.

Tangents:
• Trail Links: Official, Public Maps at AllTrails
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

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