Pulgas Water Temple & Crystal Springs Trail,
San Francisco Water Department & San Mateo County,
San Mateo County
In brief:
2.2 mile out and back along Cañada Road, to the Pulgas Water Temple.

Almost totally exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surface:
Side-of-the-road dirt trail.

Hiking time:
1 hour

Nice any time.

Getting there:
• From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit #29 Edgewood Road. Drive west to the junction with Cañada Road, and turn right (north). Drive about 1.5 miles, and turn left into the parking lot.
• Or, if you'd like to hike to the temple, park at the roadside parking area at the junction of Cañada and Edgewood. You can also start at the junction of CA 92 and Cañada, and hike south to the temple along the Crystal Springs Trail.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead (junction of Edgewood and Cañada):
Latitude 3727'50.72"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead (water temple parking lot):
Latitude 3728'58.25"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Trailhead details:
• At the Water Temple: two designated handicapped parking spots, as well as more parking in a small paved lot. Access only Monday-Friday; the water temple is closed on weekends. In addition (if you thought you'd just take a peak), Cañada Road is closed from Edgewood Road to CA 92 every Sunday from 9am - 3 or 4pm, except during the winter, foul weather, or holidays. No parking or entrance fees. Two wheelchair accessible portable toilets are located in the south section of the parking lot. The parking lot has a signed 30 minute limit, so if you plan on lingering, hike in.
• At roadside parking at junction of Cañada and Edgewood: parking for about 20 vehicles. No entrance or parking fees. Can get crowded on weekends. No restrooms (portable toilets at Water Temple). No maps available. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

Hikers and equestrians permitted on Crystal Springs Trail. Hikers only at the water temple. No dogs.

The Official Story:
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
San Francisco Water Department Watershed Management 415-872-5900.

Map Choices:
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and descriptions of the trails to the water temple (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and description of the water temple (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 28 photos from the hike to the temple.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

The walk on the Crystal Springs Trail to the Pulgas Water Temple isn't much of a hike. Trailhead The narrow earth path is separated from Cañada Road by shrubs, a few oaks, and at some places, nothing more than a little dirt. To the west a tall chain link fence, topped with barbed wire, keeps hikers (and everyone else) out of water district lands.
     The contrast between the trail and the water temple is most pronounced in autumn. After you hike past dry brown fields along a dusty path, suddenly you reach an oasis of lush green lawn and manicured plants. Water rushes under your feet, on the way from Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite to the water district reservoirs, and then north to San Francisco. Crystal Springs TrailA visit to the water temple could prompt a lively discussion about water and California,but that's perhaps best suited to another venue. Instead, enjoy the unusual access to water district lands, and the picturesque temple and grounds.
     To hike to the temple, start at the intersection of Cañada and Edgewood Roads. Cross Cañada and walk through the stone gates, then turn right onto the small, and unsigned trail. The narrow and rocky path, used by equestrians and hikers (popular with joggers), loses a bit of elevation and then levels out. Oaks, coyote brush, and poison oak line the path. Yellow star thistle grows in bunches close to the ground. You may see honeysuckle, madrone, blackberry, and toyon. Birds are very common, particularly in autumn as they rustle through the downed leaves and feed off berries. Parking lot at the water templeMinor changes in elevation break up the monotony along the straight path. When you reach the tallest point, under a large oak, look ahead and to the west for a view of Upper Crystal Springs Lake. The roofs of Filoli Estate can also be glimpsed in the valley to the west. Crystal Springs Trail crosses two access roads into Filoli as it draws near the water temple. In autumn, you know you're almost there when you see the bright yellow leaves of tall cottonwood trees off to the left. At about 1.5 miles, turn left into the gated entrance of the Pulgas Water Temple.
      Walk straight through the parking lot, and down the obvious path to the right. A variety of plants and trees thrive in the well-tended grounds. You may see cottonwood, cotoneaster (non-native and poisonous),and California coffeeberry. The gravel path delivers you to the water temple.Pulgas Water Temple A rectangular reflecting pool lined with cypress trees is an attractive accompaniment to the small columned temple. A quote from the Book of Isaiah ("I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to give drink to my people") is inscribed on a plaque on the edge of a well-like hole which reveals the rush of water as it passes underneath (update: this is no longer a feature -- it was removed in the renovation), on the way to an open sluice (off limits to the west) and then the reservoirs. When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total mileage: about 3 miles
Last hiked: Monday, October 23, 2000