Mills Canyon Nature Area,
City of Burlingame,

San Mateo County
In brief:
1 mile loop squeezes between housing developments in Burlingame.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1 mile loop hike is easy, however there are plenty of trail obstacles on the lower, creek portion of the trail. Steps and rocks can be slippery.

About 1/2 shaded, 1/2 exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
Under an hour.

Nice anytime.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, take the Trousdale Drive exit. Drive east about 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Sebastian Drive. Continue about 0.5 mile, then turn right onto Arguello. Look for a gate on the left side of the road after about 0.2 mile.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3734'41.93"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. There is decent roadside parking in a residential neighborhood, but no maps, drinking water, or toilet facilities. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not wheelchair accessible. This trail is not suitable for strollers. This nature area is so small I doubt you'd go out of your way to visit, but if you are so inclined, you can take SamTrans bus #242, get off on Trousdale, and walk to Mills Canyon.

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants in surrounding communities, but there's nothing within walking distance. No camping.

No bicycles. Dogs are permitted on leash. The posted rules don't mention horses, but I doubt you'd encounter any here. The nature area is open from 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Official Story:
City of Burlingame's Mills Canyon page
City of Burlingame Park Department: 415-558-7330

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a map and descriptions of the trails (order this book from

View photos of this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Mills Canyon is the kind of place I'd like to hike after aNear entrance Thanksgiving dinner. You know what it's like, you eat a lot, and then want to walk outside a little, but not any great hike or anything. Just an hour or so of gentle strolling. Mills is perfect for that. It's a small area with one real trail, fairly level, but with enough elevation gain to make you sweat a bit. On the negative side, the trail is narrow and can be overgrown, and the locals seem to use Mill Canyon as a late night party stop judging from all the beer bottles and cans.
        As you enter the preserve, walk to the right of the Mills Canyon sign and down the slope. After about 120 feet, stay to the left at a junction near a garbage can. A few steps later, at about 135 feet, the trail splits near a sign post. Turn right.
     The narrow path descends slightly through coast live Trail through the woodsoak, California bay, maple, buckeye, and a handful of redwoods. In the understory you may see toyon, snowberry, honeysuckle, and ferns, as well as invasive and unwelcome broom and ivy. This portion of the trail runs along Mills Creek, which flows (albeit barely in the summer) all year. At various spots along the path, large rock formations crowd the trail. Rolling slightly up and down, with steps to climb and trees to climb under and over, and poison oak all over the place, Mills Canyon Trail begs for your attention. Stay on the main trail, ignoring any side trails that lead right, out of the nature area, or shortcut the main trail. On occasion, the trail skirts the edge of a sloping grassy meadow; Trail and boulderthe return leg of the trail passes through the top of this meadow. Down in the woods you may see hound's tongue in late winter, and iris and lupine in spring.
        After about half a mile of shaded strolling, the path veers left, turns away from the creek and ascends a bit. There are a few madrones in this last patch of woods. Once past a short climb on stairs, the trail emerges into grassland. Some big, luxurious houses are visible to the south and north of the nature area. Keep an eye out for yellow star thistle (it stings), and ticks as you hike along the path. Invasive and non-native plants are common, but you may also see sagebrush and sticky monkeyflower, as well as springtime flowers including bellardia, vetch, sunflowers,Through grassland blue-eyed grass, bluedicks, lupines, and broadleaf filaree. On clear days you can see the bay to the east. The trail ambles through grassland, with short stretches through coast live oak and California bay woods. You'll meander through a substantial stand of non-native acacias. In the fall the husks of their seed pods (they're in the legume family) litter the path like red confetti. A few side trails head to the right, out of the nature area to the street. Stay straight on the main trail. Follow the trail back to the previously encountered junction (the signpost says Arguello with an arrow) at 1.04 miles, and then retrace your steps back to the street.

Total distance: 1.07 miles
Last hiked:  Wednesday, April 11, 2001