Trail Review: San Bruno Mountain

I’ve been curious about San Bruno Mountain for some time since we have a great view of it from our living room window (I would include a photo except that we haven’t been able to see it for a week with all this fog!). The mountain is situated right south of San Francisco and it’s nearly always in sight if you frequent that part of the city or any of the communities that border SF to the south. The lower slopes of the mountain have been developed, but the upper part is a protected conservation area largely due to the presence of the endangered Mission Blue and San Bruno Elfin butterflies. The mountain also is supposed to have great wildflower displays in the spring, and since yesterday was foggy, as it has been nearly every day for at least a week, we thought it would be a good day to check out some flowers!
We did the Summit Loop Trail, with a little side trip along the Ridge Trail for an easy hike of 3.5 miles, 750 feet of gain. The trail winds up the mountain on the bay side, and then heads back down on the ocean side, but with the fog it got disorienting quickly. The top of the mountain is covered with radio towers, satellite dishes, and other electrical equipment to remind you that this little piece of nature sits smack in the middle of a very urban area, though you probably don’t need reminding on a clear day when you can actually see the city and surrounding communities anyway!
Maybe because we went into it expecting truly spectacular wildflowers, we were a little disappointed with the amount and variety at the time. There are certainly flowers everywhere, but the grassy slopes weren’t exactly brimming with them. I was looking forward to seeing more lupine varieties and the butterflies that coexist with them as well, but there was hardly any. I appreciated the amount and variety of flowers a lot more, though, when sorting through photos, and I’m looking forward to going there a few more times this spring. I plan to go on one of their free guided walks offered on Saturdays to learn more about those butterflies from an expert as well.
Milkmaids

Out of all the lovely flowers, there were two standouts this trip: Milkmaids and Cow Parsnip. Complex, intricate flowers are certainly beautiful, but I’ve always been drawn to sweet, simple little flowers and milkmaids might be my new favorite. Cow parsnip, on the other hand, is a huge plant with big flower clusters, but it’s also a favorite to see on the trail and was just everywhere on San Bruno Mountain.

Cow Parsnip

Here’s a sampling of other flowers spotted. There are more varieties that didn’t make it into this post, or didn’t even get a photo taken! I was feeling a bit tired on the hike and even today, so I didn’t take as many photos for identification as usual and even some of these are unidentified (for now). Sometimes you just need to enjoy the flowers!

From left to right, top to bottom: California Manroot, Douglas Iris, unidentified, Lupine, Miner’s Lettuce, unidentified, two Paintbrush photos, unidentified rodent

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