The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council is closing in on 400 completed miles of its Bay Area Ridge Trail project, with segments in San Mateo County on the agenda to complete a continuous 550-mile multi-use trail ring encompassing the Bay Area.

Janet McBride

Janet McBride

“Every new trail that opens is a huge cause for celebration and for people to get out and see views they’ve never seen and have time in nature,” said Janet McBride, Ridge Trail Council executive director. “Hopefully, people throughout the Bay Area, but obviously in San Mateo [County], are relatively close and easy access to some section of the ridge trail that they go and visit.”

Around 393 miles of the planned 550 miles of multi-use trail is complete and open for use. Plans for 2021 to reach 400 miles include completing 3.7 miles from Pacific Union College to Moore Creek Park in Napa County and 3.5 miles at El Sereno Open Space Preserve in Santa Clara County. A good year sees 10 miles closed per year. The early years focused on completing the easy trail options, with the more difficult sections now under construction or planning. Total completion will likely take another 20 years. While the Ridge Trail Council aims for a natural path for most areas, it does have urban components that require a paved trail and areas with decomposed granite.

The Ridge Trail Council, a nonprofit founded in 1989, plans and works to create hiking, cycling and equestrian trails around the Bay Area to create long-term open space for the community. It has been working on the continuous trail for decades by partnering with local governments, parks and other stakeholder groups. McBride noted the cumulative ridge trail was possible because partners prioritized the ridge trail as a goal.

“This completion of the overall regional network is not a singular effort. It’s really done in collaboration with all our partners,” McBride said.

San Mateo County completed ridge trail sections are at Sweeney Ridge, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission watershed, Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, Wunderlich County Park to Huddart Park, Windy Hill Preserve, Skyline Ridge and Russian Ridge. In May, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission approved a 6-mile public trail extension in the 23,000-acre Peninsula Watershed area, which includes Crystal Springs, Pilarcitos and San Andreas Reservoir. The Peninsula Watershed project would add public hiking options and access to the existing Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail. The new trail would be accessible via an annual permit system and have two restrooms and a parking lot.

Future San Mateo County ridge trails planned in the next five years include 5.6 miles for the Southern Skyline Ridge extension and .2 miles to create a safe crossing at the Skyline Boulevard and Highway 35 crossing. Longer term sections include 4 miles in La Honda Creek Preserve, 3 miles in El Corte de Madera Preserve and 1.5 miles to address gaps on both sides of Windy Hill Preserve.

Around 68 miles of the estimated 550-mile trail is in San Mateo County. Just more than 70% of the planned route in the county is complete, with approximately 20 miles still left to go, a relatively high completion rate. McBride noted slight changes could be made to ensure all the trails connect.

“You don’t always know exactly how a trail is going to connect on the northern end or the southern end, and so sometimes you have to adjust the route to make sure it all links up in the end,” McBride said.

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