Urban Vistas & War Relics on the Ridge Trail at Pacifica

The Bay Area Ridge Trail traverses the northern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains on Sweeney and Milagra ridges before descending to the ocean at Pacifica. Connected by Skyline College and the steep staircases that distinguish the mile-long Notch Trail, the two ridges include views of suburban San Mateo County, the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Shade is sparse. Historic relics are not.

We are hiking the nearly 400-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.

TRAIL MAP (date hiked)

Our Journal

There’s a lot of history along the Ridge Trail in the hills above Pacifica, CA.

  • The Portola Expedition got its first glimpse of San Francisco Bay from atop Sweeney Ridge on Nov. 4, 1769. A vandalized monument commemorates the event.
  • During the Cold War, both Sweeney and Milagra ridges housed Nike missile batteries, the last line of defense against nuclear attack on the Bay Area. Concrete platforms mark the location of the military installations.
  • During World War II, antiaircraft gun and radar emplacements at Milagra Ridge helped guard the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The graffitied remains of the pill boxes are visible along the trail.

Neither the scarred war relics nor monument to exploration are particularly attractive, but they didn’t stop us from enjoying the unique views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, with the suburban sprawl south of San Francisco sandwiched in between. Look for a hillside labyrinth just off the trail below Milagra Ridge.

The hike was not without its challenges.

The Notch Trail connector provided an aerobic challenge The trail connector through the college campus is not particularly intuitive and provided a minor navigational challenge. And catching a glimpse of an endangered species native to these hills is an ongoing challenge.

Despite lots of signage, we spotted neither an endangered Mission blue nor a San Bruno elfin butterfly. Not even a California red-legged frog. Maybe next time.

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 134 out of 395 miles


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