Junipero Serra County Park,
San Mateo County Parks,
San Mateo County
In brief:
2.1 mile loop at a small park a short distance off Interstate 280.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.1 mile loop hike is easy. The park is small, with limited elevation changes.

Mix of shade and sun.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
1 hour.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
• From southbound Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit Crystal Springs Road. Stay in the right lane and at the light, turn right onto Crystal Springs Road. Drive about 0.5 mile, to the park entrance on the left side of the road.
• From northbound Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit San Bruno Avenue. Go under the freeway and turn left back on 280 southbound. Exit Crystal Springs Road, stay in the right lane and at the light, turn right onto Crystal Springs Road. Drive about 0.5 mile, to the park entrance on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3736'34.13"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, restaurants, and stores available in nearby San Bruno and Millbrae; just about any highway exit near the park has facilities and businesses. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Once past the entrance kiosk, bear left and park in the lot near the De Anza Trailhead. More parking in various lots throughout the park. $6 entrance fee; self-register if kiosk is unattended. Designated handicapped parking spots in each parking lot. Some trails and picnic areas may be wheelchair accessible for short distances with assistance. Maps available at the De Anza Trailhead information signboard. Restrooms near parking lot. Park hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in winter, and until 8 p.m. April through Labor Day weekend. There is no direct public transportation to the park. A few SamTrans buses service nearby neighborhoods.

Trails are open to hikers and equestrians. No bikes on trails, although they are permitted on the paved park roads. Dogs are not allowed.

The Official Story:
SMCP's Junipero Serra page
Park office 650-589-5708

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region Map to get there.
Map from SMCP
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from has a great map and descriptions of a Junipero Serra hike.
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map) is a good guide (available from Pease Press).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from

View photos of this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Junipero Serra is a small park, squeezed on all sidesParking lot  by a freeway and residential communities. The trails are nicely maintained and well-marked, and travel through the park's plant communities, but nothing can mitigate the noise pollution you'll encounter as you hike. Traffic noise from Interstate 280 is a constant accompaniment on Junipero Serra's west side, and on the east you'll hear and see traffic on 101. Airplane traffic from SFO in the skies above the park is also heavy. If you can get beyond the noise, Junipero Serra is a nice place for a picnic and/or short walk. There are barbecue pits, picnic tables, and restrooms. The park's reservable group picnic areas boast volleyball nets and large shelter buildings. If you visit just to hike, you could easily cover all the park's trails in a few hours. Live Oak Nature TrailLive Oak Nature Trail, a self-guided loop, is perhaps the park's nicest path, and is recommended for hikers seeking to learn about bay area plants. One work of caution: Junipero Serra is one of those parks where people sit in their cars in the parking lot on weekdays. I've never had a problem, but it can be kind of unsettling if you're alone. You may want to hike on weekends or with a friend.
     For the featured hike, start at the De Anza Trailhead, at the far end of the parking lot. Turn left on Live Oak Nature Trail. The trail, closed to cyclists, initially follows at a level pace along El Zanjon Creek. Identification posts along the trail point out wood mint, horsetail, willow, California coffeeberry, vetch, honeysuckle, buckeye, and toyon. The dominant tree is coast live oak. In spring, you may see California buttercup, forget-me-not, hound's tongue, and iris. Live Buckeye TrailOak Nature Trail turns away from the creek and climbs slightly, through a transition between woodland and grassland. At 0.24 mile, you'll reach a signed triangle shaped junction. Stay to the right, on Live Oak Nature Trail.
      After a few more steps under tree cover, the trail emerges into grassland, with broom, toyon, poison oak, and coyote brush on the sides of the path. A bench provides a rest stop. You may see milkmaids and mission bells in spring. At 0.30 mile, Live Oak Nature Trail meets Buckeye Trail at a signed junction. Turn left on Buckeye Trail.
      The trail, open to equestrians and hikers, climbs gently through grassland infested with broom. At 0.34 mile, Buckeye meets Quail Loop Trail at a signed junction. Take the first path to the left, Quail Loop Trail.
     Quail Loop Trail is closed to cyclists. The path ascends slightly, through a mixture of grassland and chaparral. Interstate 280 is audible, and occasionally Quail Loop Trailvisible. Monterey pine and eucalyptus loom off the sides of the trail. At 0.61 mile, Quail Loop meets a path that heads out of the park, at a signed junction. Bear right.
      You might hear or glimpse hawks and Steller's jays in this area. Quail Loop Trail begins to enter a meadow, where you might see California poppy, buttercup, iris, footsteps of spring, wild radish, and mustard blooming in spring. At 0.66 mile, Quail Loop Trail crosses Meadow View Trail (which is shown on the map as a service road). Continue on Quail Loop Trail.
      As you climb past the meadow, you'll have long views of the nearby residential neighborhoods, and the airport. Poison oak shrubs are common. Quail Loop Trail heads toward a forest of Monterey pine and eucalyptus, and meets Meadow View Trail again at 0.78. Bear left and remain on Quail Loop Trail.
     The trail bisects a tiny redwood grove, then continues on through mostly grassland. Drawing close to the park boundary, Descending on Quail Loop TrailQuail Loop Trail makes a tight turn and heads west through eucalyptus. Picnic areas are visible on the left. At 1.02 miles, a path sets out toward Bay View Shelter on the right. Continue on Quail Loop Trail.
      Monterey pine, cypress, and eucalyptus tower over grassland. In spring you might see swaths of miner's lettuce mixed in the grass. At about 1.06 miles, the trail crosses a road, then at 1.16 miles it crosses the road again. Both times continue on Quail Loop Trail.
     The trail switchbacks under eucalyptus, then emerges back into grassland, were you might see blue-eyed grass in spring. Quail Loop begins to descend into oak woodland. At 1.65 miles, Quail Loop Trail passes Willow Shelter and crosses the road one last time. In spring, ceanothus blooms near the junction. If you want to continue on Quail Loop, walk uphill a short distance on the road, and look for the trail continuation on the left (I missed this). Continue straight on De Anza Trail.
     TheBack in oak woodland  trail runs through the woods above the parking lot, then meets Live Oak Nature Trail at 1.73 miles. (If you're ready to stop, turn left and walk downhill to the trailhead.) I wanted to hike the rest of Live Oak Nature Trail, so I decided to hike on. Turn right and continue on De Anza Trail, heading uphill. At about 1.76 miles, you'll meet Quail Loop Trail again. Turn left. Lovely ferns grace the understory. At 1.90 miles, you'll return to a previously encountered junction. Bear left on Buckeye Trail. Descend through familiar territory, and then at 1.94 miles, you'll reach another previously encountered junction with Live Oak Nature Trail. Turn left.
      The other leg of Live Oak Nature Trail passes through snowberry, Monterey pine, madrone, California bay, monkeyflower, and ceanothus. Coast live oaks shade the path, where you might see mushrooms in winter, and soaproot in bloom during the late spring. At 2.04 miles, you'll return to the junction with De Anza Trail. Turn right and retrace your steps to the parking lot.

Total mileage: 2.07 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, March 21, 2001