Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

San Mateo County
In brief:
2.2 mile easy loop at old tuberculosis sanitarium grounds.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.2 mile loop hike, like all the options at Pulgas, is easy: total elevation change is about 400 feet. Trailhead elevation is around 264 feet. The highest point is about 670 feet. This is a small preserve; a good choice for beginners.

Mix of shade and sun.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Nice any time, really special in early spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit #29/Edgewood Road. Drive about 1 mile east, then turn left onto Crestview Drive (just before the entrance to Edgewood Park). Almost immediately, turn left onto Edmonds Road. After about 0.2 mile, turn right into the signed parking lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3728'30.22"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
None in the immediate area. No camping.

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. There is a vault toilet. There are two designated handicapped parking spots, and two trails are wheelchair accessible. No drinking water. Maps are available at the information signboard. There is no direct public transportation to this preserve.

No bikes or horses. Dogs are permitted on leash, and off-leash at the off-leash dog area. Preserve is open from dawn to 1/2 hour after dusk.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Pulgas page.
MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
Map from MROSD (download Pulgas pdf).
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website) has a simple map and a featured hike. Order this book from Amazon.com.
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map, trail descriptions, and suggested hikes (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 60 photos from the featured hike (old trailhead shown)

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Pulgas is a small, Trailhead well-managed preserve with a large off-leash dog area where dogs can run through the poison oak and brush to their hearts' content. If you don't want to hike with dogs about, go across the canyon to Edgewood Park, where dogs are not permitted. However, if you aren't bothered by the occasional dog barking and charging down the trail at you, or if you are a dog owner, give this preserve a shot.
     The 293 acres that now comprise Pulgas were formerly a tuberculosis sanitarium owned by the City of San Francisco. MROSD purchased the land in 1983. Buildings were demolished in 1985, and most of the non-native plants have been removed, but there are still some old walls and steps off Hassler Trail.
     In 2006 MROSD added a new parking lot and two trails to the existing small trail network. A third route, Dusky-footed Woodrat Trail,opened in 2007. Dick Bishop Trail (formerly named Sagebrush Trail) begins up on the ridge, and connects the end of Polly Geraci Trail with Blue Oak Trail, avoiding the off-leash dog area. A short (as far as I know, unnamed) path departs from the parking lot and connects to Cordilleras Trail, so hikers no longer have to walk along Edmonds Road to connect a loop. Polly Geraci Trail
      Begin from the edge of the parking lot, and follow the signed trail toward Polly Geraci Trail
. The path accompanies a string of power lines to the left, as it traverses a gently sloping hillside. Coast live oaks, California bays, and buckeyes provide shade. The property on the right is a substance abuse treatment center -- stay on the trail here and keep it quiet. After some easy undulating, the trail bends right, passes through a narrow tree-dotted meadow, crosses a road, and meets Cordilleras Trail at a T junction. Turn left.
     The trail cuts through private land, so stay on the trail (don't walk on the road). Not too much to look at here, just abundant poison oak shrubs, annoying non-native broom plants, and some oaks and acacias overhead. You might see a few Ithuriel's spear and blue-eyed grass in spring. After 0.37 mile, at a signed junction, Cordilleras Trail continues uphill, while a gated trail heads under the trees to the right. (You can continue on the paved Cordilleras Trail to create a shorter, 1.3 mile hike.) Turn right. After a few feet, at 0.40 mile, Polly Geraci Trail begins on the left at a signed junction. The trail continuing straight is suitable for wheelchairs. Turn left.Through chaparral
The Trail Center built this segment, and it's lovely. It's a hiking-only, gently-climbing trail that is quiet and shady. In spring, look for mission bells, starflower, woodland star, mule ear sunflower, milkmaids, columbine, hound's tongue, giant trillium, Indian warrior, and fetid adder's tongue in bloom. Deer are common, especially on the eastern side of this canyon. On the way uphill, Dusky-footed Woodrat Trail heads off to the right, taking hikers on a long tour through the preserve's northern area. Continue straight on Polly Geraci Trail.
     Switchbacks ascend under buckeye, coast live oak, madrone, and California bay trees. In the understory, gooseberries, snowberries, and honeysuckle nestle among the ferns. Traffic noise from 280 infiltrates solitude after 0.75 mile or so. The foliage gradually shifts to chaparral near a bench at about 1.07 miles, where a small snip of the highway is visible, as well as some large newer homes on the crest across the canyon to the northeast. This section of chaparral is lovely, with tall chamise shrubs and manzanitas, giving the trail a tunnel feel. Spring flowers include zigadene, bluewitch nightshade, and sticky monkeyflower. View from the ridgeElderberry, yerba santa, ceanothus, pitcher sage, and toyon are also present. The trail becomes sandy, and if you look across the canyon, you can see more chaparral-coated rocky hills with small sandstone formations (unfortunately, those hills are not part of the preserve). At 1.38 miles, the trail ends at a signed junction with Hassler Trail -- Dick Bishop Trail begins immediately across from the junction. Hassler to the right ascends to run along a CalTrans vista point (fenced) -- the other end of Dusky-footed Woodrat Trail connects to Hassler there. Turn left and head downhill.
      When it's clear there's a nice panorama of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the right. To the east Mount Hamilton looms in the distance. Hassler Trail is a wide paved road, with a comfortable downhill grade. Some eucalyptus trees line the way. The trail splits around the off-leash dog area at 1.54 miles; it's 0.4 mile either way, but I prefer the trail to the right, for nicer views of the slopes of Edgewood Preserve across the canyon to the south. Bear right.Blue Oak Trail
      Pulgas used to house a tuberculosis sanitarium, and this area of the preserve was home to many non-native plants, including rockrose, oleander, and a large stand of prickly pear cacti; these have all been removed, and new oak seedings have been planted to reinvigorate the sides of the trail. Spring wildflowers in this region of disturbed vegetation are disappointing. Blue Oak Trail starts at a signed junction off the right side of the trail, just past the end of the dog area loop at 1.87 miles. Turn right.
Blue and coast live oaks, California bay, and madrone shade the narrow hiking-only trail. Almost immediately, the other end of Sagebrush Trail feeds from the right. Indian warrior, shooting stars, and hound's tongue make a strong showing from late winter to early spring, and broom and poison oak are common. Switchbacks keep the descent a gentle one. In mid-spring you might see fairy lanterns along the trail. At 2.3 miles, Blue Oak Trail ends at the edge of the parking lot.

Total mileage:  2.3 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, November 23, 2004