Sawyer Camp Trail,
San Mateo County Parks and Recreation,
San Mateo County
In brief:
7 mile out and back walk on paved path along Crystal Springs Reservoir. One of the most popular recreation trails in the Bay Area

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 7 mile out and back walk is easy. Sawyer Camp Trail stretches 6 miles. The lower section is completely flat, and the upper stretch has a few easy hills.

Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Paved trail.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Nice any time; lovely in autumn.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit #36 Hayne Road/Black Mountain Road (if you're approaching northbound, turn left at the end of the exit ramp). Drive south on Skyline Boulevard about 1.3 miles, to the trail entrance on the right (west) side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3731'51.34"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Nothing in the immediate area. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Roadside parking. No entrance or parking fees. Pit toilets just inside the entrance gate, and at several other locations along the trail. Maps available at information signboard near entrance. Pay phone near entrance. Drinking water near the trail's half-way point, at the Jepson Laurel Area. There are three designated handicapped parking spots, and the trail is wheelchair accessible. You can also access the trail from a northern trailhead, near Hillcrest Boulevard. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

The trail is multi-use. Dogs are not permitted. Trail is open from sunrise to sunset.

The Official Story:
SMCP's Sawyer Camp page

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from SMCP.
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 description (order this book from
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and trail description (order this book from

Sawyer Camp Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured walk.

View photos from the trail.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Sawyer Camp Trail is one of the most popular recreation paths in the Bay Area.Trailhead, Sawyer Camp Trail  On any given day you are prone to encounter roller bladers, cyclists, moms and dads with strollers, joggers, and folks looking for easy exercise. The 6 mile paved trail stretches from the shores of Crystal Springs Reservoir to San Andreas Lake, through protected San Francisco Watershed lands. Sawyer Camp is as close as most of us will ever get to the off-limits watershed property, which is a shame, since it looks pretty from this fenced-off trail.
     Markers every half mile make it easy to track your progress as you travel Sawyer Camp Trail. Seasoned hikers will probably prefer one of the other dirt trails in nearby county parks, as walking on this paved trail definitely is not a wilderness experience. Sawyer Camp TrailBut for wheelchairs users and parents with young kids, Sawyer Camp Trail is a good choice for a gentle outdoor outing. It's also a great location to learn (or relearn) to ride a bicycle -- the southern part of the trail is almost perfectly flat, while the northern section has a slight grade.
     Begin at the southern trailhead. You can consult the map at the information signboard, but there's not much call for that, as there are no intersecting trails. The wide paved trail is split down the middle like a road; do stay to the right to avoid a collision with other trail users. Crystal Springs Reservoir shines to the left, although access is prohibited by a tall chain link fence. Benches sit along the sides of the trail in several spots, allowing for rest or lunch breaks. Sawyer Camp TrailThe trail winds through open areas, with toyon, coyote brush, and poison oak common, as well as more shaded stretches where coast live oak and California bay dominate the landscape. Shade is sporadic so bring a hat on a sunny day. You may see (or hear) ducks and other waterbirds, deer, rabbits, and raptors. Sawyer Camp occasionally drifts inland, away from the water for short stretches, but then returns to offer fabulous views across the reservoir to the western hills. In autumn if you stand quietly along wooded sections of the trail you may see small birds feeding on honeysuckle and poison oak berries, as well as acorns. Once past the northern edge of Crystal Springs Reservoir, Sawyer Camp Trail enters an area where coast live oak and California bay mix through Monterey pine, madrone, cypress, and a few buckeye. Jepson LaurelWillow and dogwood mark seasonal creeks on the left.At the 3 mile mark, a gated and locked service road crosses Sawyer Camp Trail. You may spot coyote scat here, as Canis latrans are fond of marking their territory at crossroads. Dogwood, ash, cottonwood, and poison oak make a dramatic and gorgeous fall statement as Sawyer Camp Trail continues north, putting forth bright leaves of gold and red in early November. At 3.50 miles you'll reach the Jepson Laurel area.
     Pass the portable toilets and veer left on a narrow path a few feet, where a plaque heralds the massive bay (there are better views from the edge of the picnic area, to the right). This is the largest California bay tree in the state, and is believed to be over 600 years old. Retrace your steps when you're ready to return to the trailhead.

Total distance: 7.00 miles
Last visit: Wednesday, November 6, 2002