San Mateo to Millbrae

Pedestrian/bike bridge over the mouth of Marina Lagoon

Trail Description and Views


This section of the Bay Trail runs mostly along the edge of San Francisco Bay, starting at the mouth of Marina Lagoon near the San Mateo-Foster City border and ending just south of San Francisco International Airport in Millbrae. The Bay Trail is a dedicated paved multi-use trail for most of the route, with only a few short sections that require taking surface streets. (Plans are in the works to close these small gaps.) This is mostly a linear route, though alternate routes are possible around Burlingame and Anza Lagoons. This segment runs through the San Mateo County cities of San Mateo, Burlingame, and Millbrae. It passes through Coyote Point, which is a major destination in itself and has a network of trails running through it. Most of the Bay Trail along this route is exposed to the full force of the bay winds, which tend to blow southeast down the bay. Travelling south to north requires fighting the wind on the way up, but allows taking advantage of the tailwind on the return trip.

This segment ends at the threshold of the San Francisco International Airport. There are as yet no off-road trails bypassing the airport, so this makes for a natural endpoint. SFO is the busiest airport in the Bay Area, and is one of the busiest in the world, handling some 35 million passengers a year, and with over 60 airlines using the airport. Large hotels, motels, restaurants, and auto rental yards surround the airport. Many of these businesses are located right along the Bay. However, the Bay Trail manages to squeeze by them on a paved path right next to the waters of the Bay.

Access Information

This part of the trail begins in the city of San Mateo. The most convenient access point for the trail is at the parking lot at the intersection of J. Hart Clinton Drive and Anchor Road, just south of the pedestrian bridge over the mouth of Marina Lagoon. Bayside/Joinville Park, which lies on both sides of the mouth of Marina Lagoon, is across the road. To get here from the northern Peninsula, take Hwy 101 to the 3rd Avenue exit in San Mateo and head east. The road is named the J. Hart Clinton Drive along this route. Just past the bridge over Marina Lagoon, turn left into the parking lot at Anchor Road. To get here from the East Bay or the South Bay, take the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and get off at the Foster City Blvd. exit. Take Foster City Blvd. north to its end at 3rd Avenue and turn left. Turn right into the parking lot opposite Anchor Road. The Bay Trail runs next to this parking lot.

To make a longer trip, start in Foster City. See the Foster City Bay Trail page for more information.

Click on the following pictures to see a larger version.

Trail Description and Views

Note: mileage readings here are from a bicycle odometer. Your mileage may vary.

Parking lot by Bay Trail near Anchor Drive Begin at the parking lot at the end of Anchor Road. The parking lot is landscaped with iceplants and trees.

Looking south along bike/pedestrian brdige over mouth of Marina Lagoon on the Bay From the end of the parking lot across J. Hart Clinton Drive from Bayside/Joinville Park, take the Bay Trail over the wide bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the mouth of Marina Lagoon. This bridge, formerly used for automobile traffic, is so wide that there are separate lanes for bicycles and pedestrians with room to spare. The new automobile bridge, which runs next to the pedestrian/bike bridge on the inland side, blocks the view of Marina Lagoon, but the mouth of the lagoon where it enters San Francisco Bay can be clearly seen. Marina Lagoon was once Seal Creek, a tidal slough freely open to the Bay. Now a dam and pumps control the level of the lagoon, turning it into a 4-mile long controlled waterway used for flood control and recreation. The banks of the lagoon are mostly lined with residences and parks. On the Bay side, however, the mouth of the lagoon is undeveloped tidal flats, teeming with shorebirds. This is part of Bay Marshes Open Space.

Onion dome structure at San Mateo water treament plant by Bay Trail At 0.2 miles, the path reaches the other end of the bridge at Detroit Drive and enters San Mateo's Shoreline Park. The large onion-shaped structure to the left down Detroit Drive is part of the city of San Mateo's Water Pollution Control Plant. The trail makes a right turn and passes along the edge of a retired landfill. The hills of the landfill are currently off-limits. It will eventually become Seal Point Shoreline Park.

San Mateo rocky shore along Bay by landfill hills, looking south towards San Mateo Bridge At 0.5 miles, the trail turns left and follows the outside edge of the landfill hills. The bay waters run close to the trail below a rock wall. The trail turns left again and follows the north end of the landfill.

Mouth of San Mateo Creek on SF Bay The trail passes alongside the mouth of San Mateo Creek. The creek, which originates at Crystal Springs Dam high up at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is controlled by flood gates here.

Looking north across San Mateo Creek to Ryder Court Park A pedestrian bridge leads over San Mateo to Ryder Court Park at 1.0 miles. This is a small, shady community park with lawns, playgrounds, and picnic tables.

Wildflowers at Ryder Court Park A colorful wildflower garden decorates the bayside edge of Ryder Court Park. The trail picks up at the end of Ryder Court Park.

Bay Trail along Bay, heading towards Coyote Point The Bay Trail segment here, dubbed the Gerry R. Mon Memorial Trail, is a straight path on a levee along the edge of the bay, running between parallel rows of towering power lines. One group of towers runs through the bay. The other runs through a dry marsh area that separates the trail from the backyards of homes. At 1.6 miles, it meets a path from the end of Monte Diablo Ave., which runs next to Harbor View Park, which has picnic areas and baseball diamonds. .

Marsh next to substation near Coyote Point At 1.8 miles, the power lines end at a large power substation. Around the substation is a marsh area. A parallel path drops down to the marsh near a pumping station. Past it is the City of San Mateo Golf Course, currently undergoing remodelling.

Marshy shoreline south of Coyote Point, near yacht harbor On the bay side, the shoreline curves to the right as it approaches Coyote Point. Paths lead off to the right towards the Bay around the outside of the Coyote Point Marina. The Bay Trail continues straight into Coyote Point Recreation Area. At 2.1 miles, it crosses the road to the Coyote Point Yacht Club..

End of yacht harbor at Coyote Point The trail turns left at the edge of the marina, crosses the park road, and enters the Eucalyptus Picnic Area. It then turns left and runs around the picnic area, which like most of the hilltop land on the point, is shaded by groves of eucalyptus trees. At 2.3 miles, it crosses the road leading to the Coyote Point Environmental Museum.

Trail up hill through eucalyptus grove in Coyote Point Park The trail here does something unusual for the Bay Trail: it runs uphill. Though not very high, it is the highest point on the Bay Trail on this part of the Bay. At 2.9 miles, the trail drops down again and follow along the main park road. It crosses the side roads to the beach and picnic areas. At 3.0 miles, it reaches the park's entry station. Turn right here and follow the path that runs alongside the road to the group picnic areas and playground.

Windsurfing beach at Coyote Point Park At 3.3 miles, the path reaches the bay again at the windsurfing beach. This is one of the best places on the Bay for windsurfing, with the strong Bay breezes, the easily-accessible shoreline, and the convenient park facilities.

Shoreline and iceplant west of Coyote Point windsurfing beach Just past here, the trail  passes by the Peninsula Humane Society, located just off Airport Blvd. The trail is lined with iceplants.

Peninsula Beach Another sandy beach is here, Peninsula Beach, which is accessible to the public. The trail begins to turn to the right. It enters the Burlingame city limits. Most of the Bay Trail from here to SFO runs through Burlingame.

Sidewalk along rock wall north of Coyote Point Park At 3.6 miles, the trail ends at Airport Blvd. A paved sidewalk continues along the top of the rock wall, while bicycles follow along on a bike lane on the road.

Fishing at Fisherman's Park, Coyote Point in background At 3.9 miles, the paths reach the parking lot of Fisherman's Park. This is a popular place for fishing along the rock wall. it provides good views of Coyote Point and its windsurfers. The shoreline path behind a fenced-off rental car storage yard is unsafe and off-limits, so to continue on, follow Airport Blvd. west. Airport Blvd. is a wide 4-lane divided road that runs between the rental car yard and a drive-in movie theater.

Old paddle boat in channel leading to Belmont Lagoon  At 4.2 miles, the road crosses over a bridge over the channel of the Burlingame Recreation Lagoon, as it connects to the bay. A dock is here next to a public parking area. An old inactive Oakland ferry boat, the Frank M. Coxe, is docked here. At the end of the parking lot, the Bay Trail begins again. The fenced-off field to the west is state land. The trail runs between it and the bay, but is a rough dirt path. An alternate route is to continue on Airport Blvd. and turn in at the parking lot near the large restaurant.

Bridge over Anza Lagoon Channel, view of Anza Lagoon At 4.5 miles, the trail reaches Anza Lagoon. A bridge crosses over the mouth of the lagoon leads to a park area.

Path along west shore of Anza Lagoon The banks of the lagoon are landscaped. A number of buildings ring the lagoon. Trails encircle the lagoon.

U-shaped pier by Anza Lagoon The park at the end of Anza Lagoon is Robert E. Wooley Park, which has a parking lot, tree-shaded lawns, a restroom, fish-cleaning stations, and a U-shaped fishing pier.

Embassy Suites Hotel Porch on Bay At 5.1 miles, the trail passes by a luxury hotel. The hotel has a wall along the bayfront that gives the area a Mediterranean resort look.

Landscaped trail segment near Bayshore Hwy in Burlingame Beyond the hotel, the trail briefly runs through the parking lot behind an office building, then re-emerges as a nicely-landscaped paved trail following a slightly meandering path between the Bay and Bayshore Highway.

Concrete benches along Bay Trail near Burlingame water treatment plant At 5.6 miles is a parking lot with picnic tables, benches, and a fish-cleaning station. Across Bayshore Highway is a large earth landfill berm. A large construction project is currently going on on top of it. Next to it is the Burlingame Wastewater Treatment Facility. The trail curves to the right as it passes Bayside Park. The park is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and has baseball fields, a playground, and picnic tables.

Rest stop at end of paved trail At 5.8 miles, the paved trail ends at a shady rest spot with wooden benches. Just ahead is the Hwy 101 off-ramp onto Bayshore Highway. Continue on to the intersection and turn right on Bayshore Highway. A bike lane runs along the street, but only for a short distance. The road passes by businesses, hotels, and a movie theater. Turn into the movie theater parking lot and head towards the Bay. Bayshore Highway is very busy, and the inland side has a large freeway on-ramp and off-ramp, which makes southbound bicycling hazardous. There is an unofficial route that follows along the Bay, but it crosses 2 creeks on a makeshift bridge and a rickety footbridge and runs through private back parking lots.

Bayshore looking back towards Bayside Park The Bay washes up over mudflats and stands of cordgrass. Above that, the shore is sandy and rocky. Above that are the paved parking lots of the businesses along Bayshore Highway.

Paved Bay Trail resumes along wall at end of theater parking lot At the northeast end of the theater parking lot behind a large new office building, at 6.3 miles, the paved trail begins again next to a wall along the Bay. The inland side of the trail is landscaped. The trail runs behind restaurants, hotels, and auto rental yards. The restaurants tend to have large picture windows overlooking the bay, so trail users become part of the scenery. The trail is a narrow, busy sidewalk in places, so bicyclists need to watch out for pedestrians and vice versa.

Japanese restaurant and garden by Bay At 6.6 miles, the trail travels around a blue-tiled roofed Japanese restaurant, which has a Japanese garden next to the Bay. There are hedges and benches along the Bayfront.

Bridge over Mills Creek by Burlingame Shorebird Sanctuary At 6.7 miles, the trail turns inland towards Bayshore Highway and crosses a bridge over Mills Creek. Mills Creek originates up in the Burlingame hills in Mills Canyon Park. The marshy area near the mouth of the creek is part of the City of Burlingame Shorebird Sanctuary. The trail nears the main road, then turns right towards the Bay.

Trail running behind inn in Burlingame The trail squeezes behind more restaurants, a motel, a rental car yard, and a large hotel.

Creek on the Bay on the Millbrae city limits At 7.4 miles, it crosses a creek that drains into the Bay. Here the trail enters the City of Millbrae and Bayfront Park.

Paths through Millbrae's Bayfront Park near SFO Landscaped trails lead through the park. The park has lawns and benches.

View of SFO beyond Millbrae's Bayfront Park At 7.6 miles, the trail circles around the end of the park, but goes no further.

Marsh by SFO To the north is a marsh and the runways of San Francisco International Airport. This is one of the best spots on the Peninsula to view the planes at SFO.

Currently, there is no off-road Bay Trail segment around the airport. Turn around and head back down the trail.

Looking south down Burlingame Lagoon from Anza Blvd. On the way back, take a side trip around the Burlingame Recreation Lagoon. To get here, turn right down Anza Blvd. just before Anza Lagoon. Anza Blvd. crosses Airport Blvd. Just before the Hwy 101 on-ramp, at 11.1 miles, a pedestrian ramp leads down to the right. It turns left and goes under the bridge along the shore of Burlingame Lagoon. A straight path follows along the east shore of the lagoon, next to a fence. A large airport parking lot is hidden behind bushes along the fence. The lagoon is a long, straight body of water with power line towers running down its length. Despite its name, it is not used for water recreation. Signs refer to it as Sanchez Lagoon and warn that access to the lagoon banks and all water sports are prohibited. The path is paved and ruler-straight. There are some benches and trash cans along the way, but the sides of the lagoon are not landscaped for most of the route. A path can be seen on the opposite bank of the lagoon near Hwy 101, but it is currently off-limits.

View of Burlingame Lagoon, looking north from rest stop at southeast corner At 11.9 miles, near some new office buildings at the southern end of the lagoon,  is a tree-shaded rest stop with lawns and benches. The trail here is landscaped.

Pedestrian bridge to Beach Rd. over Burlingame Lagoon channel At 12.0 miles, a pedestrian bridge crosses over the channel that feeds Burlingame Lagoon. Heading over the bridge, the trail runs into a parking lot at the end of Beach Road. Take Beach Road to Airport Blvd. and catch the trail again to reach Coyote Point Park. See the Coyote Point page for more details on this park. After leaving the park, backtrack along the Bay Trail to the starting point near Bayside Joinville Park. The Bay Trail continues on to Foster City. See the Foster City trail segment for more on this route.

Old pump station at end of Marina Lagoon from Bayside Joinville Park Across J. Hart Clinton Drive is the end of Marina Lagoon. Undeveloped Tidelands Park is on the east side of the lagoon, accessible from Anchor Road. A tall concrete pumping station sits on a dam that controls the level of the lagoon. Construction near the pumping station may prevent access to both sides of the lagoon via the dam. A detour along Detroit Drive off J. Hart Clinton Drive leads to the west side of the lagoon.

Looking through sculpture across Marina Lagoon at Bayside Joinville Park Bayside/Joinville Park is on the west side of Marina Lagoon. The latter park extends south to Kehoe Avenue.

Playground at Bayside Joinville Park The Gordon R. Joinville Swim Center and a playground are at this end at the intersection of Kehoe Avenue and Roberta Drive. Roberta Drive runs through a suburban neighborhood and can be taken south to Seal Street.

Parkside Aquatic Park, San Mateo At the end of Seal Street, along Marina Lagoon, is Parkside Aquatic Park. This picturesque and popular park has picnic areas, lawns, a sandy swimming beach, and a playground. It has ramps and docks for boating on Marina Lagoon.

See the Foster City Bay Trail page for more routes around Foster City and Marina Lagoon.

Developed: 12/11/99 by Ronald Horii
Information and opinions expressed here are the responsibility of the author.