Hike San Mateo's Sugarloaf Mountain
Rate this Adventure San Francisco › Laurelwood Park (Glendora Dr.)
Added by Emily Schrick
More of a giant hill than a mountain, Sugarloaf, located in Laurelwood Park in San Mateo, offers a quick climb to some amazing views of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sugarloaf is tucked away in Laurelwood Park which is located in a residential neighborhood right off of Hwy 92 in San Mateo, making this a great hiking & trail running option for Peninsula residents.
I always park on Glendora Dr. and follow the paved path down towards the playground. At the bottom of the hill you'll see a trailhead sign with some options for proceeding up the mountain. Though there are many options, I'm going to describe a favorite loop of mine.
Start at the very end of the playground on the Salson Trail, which is marked by a closed gate with warning signs about mountain lion sightings and a reminder to keep your dogs on-leash. Officially, this is the rule. However, I have been up Sugarloaf many times, and have seen many dogs off-leash on the trails. I've never seen anyone ticketed so far (or been ticketed myself) so go off-leash at your own risk. That being said, there are some restoration areas on the trail, so make sure your pup doesn't wander off too far. There has also been an increase in mountain lion sightings in the whole Bay Area, so if you're hiking in the early morning or at dusk, leashing up would probably be best.
The first .3 miles of the hike is super easy, and nicely shaded. Once you get to a more open meadow, you'll see three options for proceeding, marked by a signpost. The first two on your left are actually the same, so take either of these trails (I always take the first on the left). The next .25 miles to the top of Sugarloaf are seemingly straight uphill. In fact, you'll gain pretty much all the 500 ft of elevation during this stretch to the top. This part is also completely exposed, so be prepared with sunscreen & a hat. An extra note of warning (especially if you're going up/down at dusk), this is not a nicely maintained trail. There are many divots and holes, and some loose gravel. You won't need hiking boots, but watch where you're stepping & wear shoes with at least some traction.
Once the trail starts to level out, you're almost there! You've reached the top when you can see the San Mateo Bridge to the east and, if Karl the Fog hasn't descended into the Bay, San Francisco to the north. You'll also see Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, the cities of Belmont, Foster City, and San Mateo on the Peninsula, and of course, the San Francisco Bay. The top of Sugarloaf is pretty windy, so if you climbed up with the intention of staying for a while [which you should! This is a great place to spread a blanket out, eat some snacks, watch airplanes land and the sun set (but alcohol has been prohibited -- again, proceed with drinking at your own risk)], bring appropriate clothing!
Now, you can either go back down the way you came for a roundtrip of 1 mile, or you can go down a different way, which is what I recommend for some nice scenery and an extra .5 miles. At the top, turn back around and start walking in the same direction you came. Once you reach a slight intersection, veer right to the east instead of down the trail you came up. Now you'll be on the Laurelwood Park Trail. I always keep left on this trail, which will lead you to the Natural Amphitheater Trail. Be aware that the trails are not well signed, but it's pretty obvious if you're on a trail or not. Follow your instincts, keep on the tan dirt path, and don't cut the switchbacks on the way down! Even if you don't end up on the Amphitheater Trail, you'll still make it down to the paved road (Tenderfoot Trail) via the Laurelwood Park Trail. I'd recommend checking this area out on Google Maps before heading out if you're not familiar with the area, because you could end up pretty far away from your car if you don't follow the correct trails.
Once you've hit the paved path, turn left towards the playground, and head back to your car! Make sure you check yourself and any other companions for ticks once you get home as well.
- Shoes with traction
- Binoculars (to get better sights of San Francisco)
- Picnic Materials
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