South San Francisco: SamTrans Peninsula to Point San Bruno

SFO from San Bruno Point

Introduction
Access
Park Description and Views

SamTrans Peninsula
San Bruno and Colma Creeks
Colma Creek to Haskins Way
East Jamie Court to Point San Bruno
Wind Harp
Links

Neighboring Bay Trail Tours:
Bay Trail: San Mateo to Millbrae
Point San Bruno Park to Oyster Point
Oyster Cove to Sierra Point
Return to the Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours

Introduction

The San Francisco Bay Trail on the Peninsula runs for miles, almost uninterrupted from Redwood Shores north to Foster City, Coyote Point, and Millbrae. It finally ends when it meets a major obstacle: San Francisco International Airport (SFO). There are no off-road trails or safe on-road routes around the airport yet. There are scattered sections of the trail completed north of the airport. Some of these sections have been completed in the past few years and more are planned. This tour describes the sections in South San Francisco starting just north of SFO and continuing to Point San Bruno. The tour continues on the next 2 pages, following the trail from Point San Bruno Park to Oyster Point, Oyster Cove, and Sierra Point..

South San Francisco is known as the "Industrial City," as proclaimed by the huge letters on the slopes of the San Bruno Mountains. With a population of about 60,000, the city is much smaller than its northern namesake, but it is the home of some 3,200 businesses. This is a heavily developed area. Factories, industrial buildings, and homes cover the city from the Bay to the Coast Range. The development runs all the way to the Bayshore, with only a few areas of open space near the Bay. The bayshore here used to be a gritty, heavy industrial area, with steel mills, paint factories, and shipyards. In more recent years, this has given way to a sleeker, cleaner look, with gleaming, high-tech office complexes and hotels for business travelers. The Bay Trail provides access to a narrow corridor between the Bay and all this development. Along the way, it passes by a water treatment plant, industrial parks, biotechnology companies, marinas, and hotels. In older areas, it has been sandwiched in between existing businesses and the Bay. In newer developments, the Bay Trail has been an integral part of the design of the campuses, with attractive landscaping and trail amenities. The Bay Trail is a valuable resource for the thousands of people who live and work here. The trail provides a place to relax, observe wildlife, eat lunch, or go for a daytime jog. Parcourses along the trail provide exercise stations to help the workers here keep fit. The trail provides access to the shoreline for fishermen and bird watchers. Families come here to enjoy a picnic by the Bay while they watch the airplanes take off from SFO or see the boats sailing by in the marinas and in the Bay. Kids can play on the lawns, bike or skate on the trails, or touch the Bay waters. There is even a place to go swimming in the Bay. Kids can learn about nature by watching the birds feeding in the Bay and estuary waters and maybe spot some marine mammals. The Bay Trail is a linear park and oasis in this busy, industrial area.

The first segment of the Bay Trail north of SFO begins on a leaf-shaped point of land called the SamTrans Peninsula. Here, the San Mateo County Transit Authority (SamTrans) has a large bus maintenance facility. Around the perimeter of the facility is a recreational trail and parcourse. The next segment of the trail begins along San Bruno Creek. San Bruno Creek merges with Colma Creek. The trail crosses Colma Creek on a bridge and follows it to the Bay. It then runs along the Bayshore towards Point San Bruno, then dead ends at the end of Haskins Way. It begins again a short distance away at a recycling center before dead-ending again. The next segment begins on the other side of the Point San Bruno Knoll at Point San Bruno Park, where it runs almost uninterrupted to Sierra Point. The gaps in the trail will hopefully be filled when the new developments in this area are completed.

Access Information

The Bay Trail in this area runs through commercial and industrial areas. It is accessible from multiple points. (See here for a map of the Bay Trail in this area, which is in grid locations C-7.) To reach the SamTrans Peninsula, take the North Access Road off-ramp from US 101. Follow the road for about a mile, passing the SFO-related facilities on your right. The SamTrans entrance will be on the left. There's a visitor's parking lot on the left near the Safe Harbor emergency shelter. The photo tour below begins at this point. There is also an access point just past the multi-story airport parking lot farther west, but parking is limited to 2 hours for Bay Trail users.

The trail along San Bruno and Colma Creeks can be reached from several points. There is a public parking lot next to the South San Francisco Water Quality Control Plant at 195 Belle Air Road. At the intersection of North Access Road and Airport Blvd., head north on Airport Blvd. then turn right on Belle Air Road. At the end of the road is the entrance to the plant. To the left of the entrance is the public parking lot for the Bay Trail. The trail begins at the end of the parking lot. The bridge over Colma Creek can be seen ahead. Another entrance is along Airport Blvd. just past a car rental company, where the road crosses San Bruno Creek. The trail entrance is on the southeast side of the creek. The huge Costco store occupies most of the block north of Belle Air Road. If you happen to be shopping at Costco, there's a trail entrance on San Bruno Creek from the Costco parking lot.

Once the trail crosses over to the north side of Colma Creek, it runs behind an industrial area. It can be accessed from the rear parking lots of many of the businesses, though parking can be a problem. One access point is at the corner of Harbor Way and Littlefield Avenue. Parking is allowed on the street on weekends. A well-marked bike path leads through the nearby parking lot to the trail.

Parking is available at the end of the trail at Haskins Way. A new development is being built east of Haskins Way. That may provide a connection to the next segment of the trail, which is isolated. It can be reached by taking E. Jamie Court, which is just off Haskins Way. At the end of the short road is a large recycling center. The entrance to the Bay Trail is on the right, next to the fence just before the entrance to the recycling center. The trail wraps around the recycling center, then dead ends at a creek and marsh. On the other side is a new industrial development being built on a hill. There may be a trail connection past there to the next section of the Bay Trail at San Bruno Point Park.

See the Point San Bruno to Oyster Point to see the next section of the Bay Trail to the north. To reach it from this section currently requires back-tracking and following surface streets. The most direct route is to head back west on E. Jamie Court, north on Haskins Way, West on E. Grand Avenue, north on Grandview Drive, which climbs up and over a hill. On the hill is a sculpture, called the Wind Harp. Follow Grandview Drive as it winds over the hill through an industrial park. At the intersection of DNA Way and Point San Bruno Blvd., follow DNA Way to the left. It ends at Forbes Blvd. Turn right into the Genentech parking lot and follow it south. At the end of the parking lot near the point are some parking spaces reserved for Bay Trail users. Along Forbes Drive are several private parking lots for Genentech, but there may be a few spaces reserved for public parking for the Bay Trail (subject to change). Be sure to obey the signs. The trail can also be accessed from Oyster Point Park to the north.

Reaching the next Bay Trail segment to the south of the SamTrans Peninsula is much more difficult. SFO poses a major obstacle. There are no off-road trails around it. The city streets in this area can be heavily congested with traffic and are not particularly safe or enjoyable for pedestrian or bicycle travel. Taking BART or Caltrain from the San Bruno stations to the Millbrae station is one possibility. Driving to Bayfront Park in Millbrae is another. See the San Mateo to Millbrae page.


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Description and Views

The pictures below were taken in October 2003. This area is under development in several places, so trail conditions are likely to change.

SamTrans Peninsula

Here is a map of the SamTrans Peninsula showing the trail around its periphery. This tour will follow the trail counter-clockwise around the peninsula.

This is the public parking lot on the SamTrans Peninsula. There are picnic tables here overlooking the slough around the peninsula.

The trail follows the entrance road. North Access Road and SFO are ahead. The Bay Trail turns right at North Access Road and follows it west. For now, cross over the entrance road to the other side.

On the other side of the road is a wide open dirt field. There are several dirt paths through here. Follow the path along the little cove on the Bay here. Farther along are some concrete benches.

Past the benches, the path curves to the left. The shore here faces the open waters of the Bay.

The wide dirt paths approach the fence of the SamTrans facility. The building at the corner is a bus-washing facility.

Near the SamTrans fence, the dirt paths turn into a paved trail. Along the way are picnic tables and parcourse stations. Bayside are marshes and the Bay waters.

Ahead is the point of the peninsula. One path runs along the point. Another cuts slightly inland.

At the point are some benches. Across the channel to the north are industrial buildings. The Bay Trail runs between them and the Bay. This segment will be taken later.

The trail curves to follow the channel. There are more benches and parcourse stations. Wooden pier pilings are the remains of ship docks that were once here. This area was used for ship building in WWII. A deep ship channel, the San Bruno Canal, led from here out to the Bay.

The trail continues to turn. The large UAL facility can be seen to south. The waters here turn into a marshy slough. The trail returns to the starting point at the parking lot.

To continue on the Bay Trail, follow it out of the parking lot again to where it turns right on North Access Road. The trail parallels the road.

The trail crosses over the slough on a new bridge.

The trail ends at a small staging area and parking lot next to the multi-story airport parking structure. Trail users can park next to the trail for two hours.

There is no off-road path to reach the next section of the Bay Trail. The on-road route skirts around the Water Quality Control Plant and is not particularly scenic or pleasant, but it's short for bicycles. Pedestrians may want to drive to the next section. Follow North Access Road past the parking structure and the Water Quality Control Plant. Stay on the right. Turn right on Airport Blvd. The three entrances to the trail in this area mentioned in the Access section are described below.

San Bruno and Colma Creeks

This is a view looking north on Airport Blvd. next to the car rental facility. The trail entrance at San Bruno Creek is just ahead.

The trail is paved and landscaped. It first runs next to the car rental company.

It then runs next to the Costco parking lot.

At the Costco parking lot is a trail entrance, picnic table, and interpretive sign.

The trail runs next to the Costco building. San Bruno Creek is a marshy slough on the left. It merges with Colma Creek. Ahead is the bridge over Colma Creek.

This is a view looking back along Colma Creek. Colma Creek is the largest waterway in South San Francisco. Its headwaters are in Colma on the slopes of San Bruno Mountain. Along the way, it is mostly a tamed flood control channel. As it nears the Bay, it becomes a more natural tidal estuary, with marsh vegetation along its banks.

This is a view a little farther down Colma Creek, looking back at its confluence with San Bruno Creek.

The trail reaches the bridge over Colma Creek. This is a view of the creek just past the bridge. The water treatment plant is on the right bank of the creek. The trail branches to the right and leads to the entrance by the water treatment plant.

This is a view of the trail entrance at the end of the landscaped parking lot by the water treatment plant. The bridge can be seen ahead.

This is a view from the end of Belle Air Road looking at the entrance to the water treatment plant. The entrance to the trail parking lot is on the left.

Returning back to the trail, cross over the bridge. This is a view of the bridge from the north side. On this end of the bridge, the trail turns into an unpaved service road heading up Colma Creek to the bridge over the creek at Utah Avenue. There's also a bicycle lane near the end of the bridge leading through the parking lot here to the intersection of Harbor Way and Littlefield Avenue.

The main trail is paved and follows the creek downstream to the east. A dirt field provides a buffer between the trail and the industries inland.

There are benches along the trail. There's not much shade here, but the Bay breezes keep it cool.

Looking south across Colma Creek, there is a marsh, the San Bruno Canal, and the SamTrans Peninsula.

Colma Creek finally reaches the Bay. The trail turns here. Benches provide a nice place to rest and view the Bay.

Colma Creek to Haskins Way

The trail turns to the northeast. A wide marsh separates the trail from the Bay.

On the left of the trail is a dirt field and the back parking lots of the adjacent industries.

Ahead, the trail makes a 90 degree turn to the east.

The trail turns and goes slightly uphill.

Trees along the trail provide shade.

This is a view looking across the marsh towards SFO.

The paved trail ends at Haskins Way. Ahead, informal dirt paths continue along the shore.

This is the trail entrance at the parking lot at the end of Haskins Way. A large industrial development is planned for the area east of Haskins Way and south of East Jamie Court. Hopefully, this will include a Bay Trail segment to close the gap to the next part of the trail.  In the meantime, it's a short trip on not very busy surface streets to reach the next trail segment. Take Haskins Way north, then turn right on East Jamie Court.

East Jamie Court to Point San Bruno

This is the recycling center at the end of East Jamie Court. The sign at the corner indicates the Bay Trail entrance.

This is the Bay Trail entrance along the fence of the recycling center.

The trail runs south along the fence, then turns left at the bayshore. It is elevated above the bay on a bluff.

The trail is landscaped and has benches and picnic tables.

The trail turns left at the point. There is a bench and interpretive sign here. The elevated viewpoint provides an excellent 270-degree panoramic view of the Bay and SFO. (See the picture at the top of this page.)

This is a view looking north along the trail, which follows along the east wall of the recycling center.

The trail ends at a loop, with benches and signs.

North of the end of the trail is a marsh and new construction at Point San Bruno. There's no direct access to the next trail segment from here yet. See the Access section for instructions on how to reach the next trail segment at Point San Bruno Park.
 

The Wind Harp

i If you take Grandview Drive, you will see a tall metal structure on top of the hill. The hill is Point San Bruno Knoll. The sculpture is the Wind Harp and is worth a visit. There is a small park around the sculpture, with benches and lawns and panoramic views of South San Francisco and the Bay. Across Grandview Drive from the Wind Harp entrance is a parking area with views of South San Francisco and Mt. San Bruno.

Continue on to the next trail segment at Point San Bruno Park to Oyster Point. After that, the trail continues to Oyster Cove and Sierra Point.

Links:

Weekly Walker: The SamTrans Trail
SAMtrans
Water Quality Control Plant
Colma Creek
Headwaters of Colma Creek
Invasive Spartina Project (see Colma Creek)
San Bruno Creek
Flood Control: San Bruno Creek, Colma Creek
Bay Trail Rider: Bridge over Colma Creek (see page 5)
South San Francisco Open Space and Conservation
South San Francisco history
South San Francisco Parks, Public Facilities, and Services
San Mateo County Trails Plan
County of San Mateo
San Mateo County Parks and Recreation
San Mateo County Parks planning documents
Wind Harp by Lucia Eames
1854 Historical Topo Map
BCDC Plan Map - Central Bay

Neighboring Bay Trail Tours:
Bay Trail: San Mateo to Millbrae
Point San Bruno Park to Oyster Point
Oyster Cove to Sierra Point
Return to the Bay Trail Guided Photo Tours


Developed: 11/6/2003 by Ronald Horii
Information and opinions expressed here are the responsibility of the author.