A San Bruno Mountain trail leads into the distance.
A San Bruno Mountain trail leads into the distance.

By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

As we’ve noted before, access to some of San Mateo County’s most scenic locations is often only a bus fare away.

From the ocean to the Bay, SamTrans provides services to an array of areas on the Peninsula, including one of San Mateo County’s hidden gems—San Bruno Mountain State Park. A 2,300-acre open space in Daly City, the undeveloped state park stands in stark contrast to the urbanization of San Francisco to the north. At over 1,300 feet at its summit, San Bruno Mountain offers stunning views of the Bay (when it’s not shrouded in fog.)

Fortunately for those interested in an afternoon hike of the mountain, SamTrans Route 121 delivers passengers just a short walk away from the Crocker Gate Trail Head, one of many routes up the mountain. On Thursday, I hopped aboard the Route 121 to take advantage of the service and scope out the mountain.

From the Colma BART Station—which serves seven different SamTrans bus lines—I boarded the Route 121, hitching my bike to the rack on the front of the vehicle. At just before 3 p.m.,  Route 121—which runs from Skyline College in San Bruno to the residential neighborhoods of Daly City—was packed with passengers, many of them students returning home from school.

The bus weaved through the various neighborhoods of Daly City, eventually ascending through the hills of the eastern part of town, offering up spectacular views of San Francisco along the way. As the bus emptied out, I was able to chat with SamTrans bus operator Uday Singh, a native of Fiji, who helped me keep an eye out for my stop.

At 3:30 p.m., we pulled up to the stop at the intersection of Alta Vista Way and South Hill Boulevard. Because it is in a residential neighborhood, Route 121 only offers morning and afternoon service, but it does make six trips to the site after 2 p.m.

From the Alta Vista Way stop, it’s only a short walk down South Hill Boulevard before you arrive at the Crocker Gate Trail Head at San Bruno Mountain. The park is open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., and there is a picnic area located just ¾ of a mile from the entrance. I stepped inside the park for a short walk, taking in the scenery of fog wafting through the giant Eucalyptus trees.

The park offers an assortment of hiking and walking trails, where visitors can search for a wide variety of birds and animals, as well as several species of endangered butterflies and plants. At the summit, there is a clear view of an old early warning Nike missile site.

SamTrans operator Uday Singh provided limousine service  aboard Route 121.
SamTrans operator Uday Singh provided limousine service aboard Route 121.

After a little while exploring the park, I hopped on my bike for a short trip down to the Daly City BART Station. For hikers travelling solely by foot, bus service to the neighborhood allows for treks of various lengths along the mountain. Route 121 does a loop around the neighborhood, and if passengers return to the stop at Alta Vista that they got off at, they’ll be picked up for a trip back to Daly City and points south.

On the weekends, the Route 121 schedule doesn’t extend all the way to Alta Vista Way and South Hill Boulevard, but it does make hourly stops to Hanover Street and Lowell Street, which is a little more than a ½ mile away from the entrance to the park.

For hiking, biking, excursions to the beach or trips to the downtowns of San Mateo County’s many cities, SamTrans has you covered.

A mist-covered San Bruno Mountain.
A mist-covered San Bruno Mountain.


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