Sweeney Ridge is a hilly hiking area of ridges and ravines between San Bruno and Pacifica, about a 25-minute drive south from San Francisco. The ridge’s 1,200-foot-high summit, covered with coastal scrub and grassland, slopes down to the bay on one side and to the Pacific on the other.
Wildlife at Sweeney Ridge includes hawks, deer, and a plethora of both native and introduced spring wildflowers. The sandy coastline and adjacent wind-protected valley of Thornton State Beach are good venues for picnicking, beach walking, surf fishing, and flying remote-control gliders.
Entrances to Sweeney Ridge from Pacifica include Skyline College off Sharp Park Road, Shelldance Nursery from Highway 1, and the end of Fassler Avenue (note: no parking at Fassler). The trailhead at the end of Sneath Lane offers visitor access from San Bruno.
- Bike to the Bay Discovery site on the paved Sneath Lane Trail. Drive-through visits to the Discovery Site can be arranged for those with mobility impediments.
- Park rangers lead a number of Sweeney Ridge walks with special themes. Call the Presidio Visitor Center at (415) 561-4323 for details.
- On Sweeney’s crest, look for the stone plaque honoring Portola’s expedition.
- A nearby granite monument directs you to views from this scenic San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, including the Farallon Islands, Mount Tamalpais, Point Reyes, Mount Diablo, the Montara Mountains, and San Pedro Point.
At the Sweeney Ridge trailhead stands a cluster of Lord and Burnum greenhouses originally built in 1949 by orchid legend Herb Hager. This facility is now known as Shelldance Nursery. Hager created world-class hybrid orchids here, naming many after the area. The nursery still cultivates hundreds of orchids and bromeliads in the greenhouses—flowers that thrive in the Pacific Coast environment simliar to the wet and cool cloud forests where many species originated.
The Nursery is open to the public on weekends, with educational programs by appointment.