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San Francisco's island mountain; it's San Bruno Mountain, with 10 miles of trails to hike.

San Francisco's island mountain

Like a grassy island with a sea of developmentlapping ever higher against its sides, San Bruno Mountain rises 7 miles south of San Francisco. It's the last stronghold for several rare or endangered plant and animal species, and much of it is preserved as a park-dedicated in May, and owned and operated jointly by the state and San Mateo County. Still, the fight to set aside more critical habitat continues.

Now is a good time to explore the mountain'snew park. Summer fogs are gone, winds are down, and wildflowers are beginning to pop out. Year-round features at 2,300-acre San Bruno Mountain State and County Park include a tree-sheltered picnic area and some 10 miles of scenic hiking trails.

Perhaps the best introduction is to takethe 2-mile-long Ridge Trail from the 1,314-foot top of San Bruno's main peak. From the trailhead parking lot at the top of Radio Road, you look out to the tip of Mount St. Helena, Mount Tamalpais, Lake Merced, and the ocean. The broad trail traces a treeless, exposed route along the contours of the ridge, heading southeast for views of busy San Francisco International Airport. To return, simply backtrack. To get onto Radio Road, pass the park entry kiosk and continue uphill past the main parking lot.

On windy days, the mountain's northeastside offers shelter. Starting near the entry kiosk, Old Guadalupe Trail (1 mile one way) winds along the hillside, jumps a small creek (dry in summer), then heads into a stand of tall eucalyptus. For a longer walk, continue along adjoining Saddle Trail (2 miles one way) for smashing views of downtown San Francisco. The two trails form a 3-mile loop that returns to the main parking lot near the entry kiosk, picnic area, and rest rooms.

Microclimate supports rare plants

Wind-blasted much of the year (gustsoccasionally reach 80 mph), the mountain's western side and ridgetop remain almost treeless but are blanketed by low ground cover. In protected areas on the northeast side, plant growth is thick with chaparral, oak, and coastal sage. Introduced species like eucalyptus, gorse, and Monterey cypress also thrive.

Rainfall averages 20 to 25 inches annually,and warmest days come in June, September, and October (fall temperatures can hit the 80s). In July and August, thick fog often shrouds the mountain, providing vital moisture to the dense coastal scrub.

Because the mountain's demanding climatediscouraged less-hardy plants and its isolation left native plants undisturbed until the encroachment of recent development, some 19 rare or endangered plant and animal species survive here. Two endangered insects--the tiny (1-inch wingspread) San Bruno elfin and the mission blue butterflies--are among several species that may be lost if key habitats now outside park boundaries aren't saved.

To learn more about this issue as well asthe mountain's plant and animal life, you can join weekend hikes given by the Bay Area Mountain Watch. The free walks are led by a knowledgeable but admittedly pro-conservation guide; for required reservations, call (415) 467-6631.

Park hours are 8 A.M. to dusk daily. FromU.S. 101, take the Brisbane-Cow Palace exit onto Bayshore Boulevard; at Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, turn uphill to the new entry kiosk. Entry is free; no dogs are allowed. A new day camp is available to groups; call (415) 992-6770.

Photo: On northeastern flank of San Bruno Mountain, hikers follow trail overlooking Bay View Park and San Francisco Bay; at right, guide points out wildflowers to weekend tour group

Photo: Manicured picnic area at new state andcounty park has several tables protected by a windbreak of tall eucalyptus

Photo: Gnarled and bent by prevailing westerlies,70-year-old cypress arches over Saddle Trail on San Bruno Mountain
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1987
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