Point San Bruno
Sign Hill

Feb 6, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2

I happen to be at the San Mateo Event Center to watch my daughter play VB in a tournament there. I had two hours somewhere in the middle of it to get out and stretch my legs. I headed north on US101 to South San Francisco where I paid a quick visit to two easy summits.

Anyone heading to San Francisco from the south along US101 cannot help but notice the huge white letters emblazoned on a hillside north of the freeway proclaiming, "South San Francisco - The Industrial City". The sign was first erected in 1923, 15yrs after the city was incorporated, paying hommage to the city's industrial focus that lasted through the 1950s. Over time, meatpacking plants and smelters have been replaced with residential neighborhoods and office parks but the sign has never changed. The area around Point San Bruno is home to Genentech which first opened in 1976, leading to the city's new motto, "The Birthplace of Biotechnology", not as yet incorporated into a hillside sign.

Point San Bruno is a very modest hill in the commercial area of the city near the SF Bay and immediately north of the San Francisco Airport. The top is home to a small circular park with a giant steel art piece rising from the center known as the Wind Harp. Inviting as that sounds, a visit by car seems highly discouraged. Parking along Grandview Dr is signed for No Parking on both sides of the narrow street. A parking lot on the north side of the street is for Genentech security vehicles only. I used a lot on the south side of the street belonging to the San Francisco Baking Institute, whatever the heck that is - at least their lot wasn't loaded with univiting GTFO signs. A short walk brings one to the Wind Harp. It was silent today with only a light breeze, but they say it makes deep, eerie sounds as a stiff wind passes through it. The highpoint of San Bruno Hill is locked away behind a pretty beefy security fence. I thought a use trail going around the north right side of the fence might be promising, but it lead only to a homeless encampment. Walking through the park and around the left side of the fence through tall grass gets you to the highest point outside the fence. The inside was perhaps a foot taller, not enough to entice me past the hefty security measures.

I next drove to the other side of the freeway, through the downtown area and then along Spruce Ave on the east side of Sign Hill. The streets are too narrow to park on without blocking traffic so I did what the neighbors do and parked on the sidewalk. It seemed a bit crazy to me and would piss me off as a pedestrian, but when in Rome... Sign Hill is of course the unimaginative name bestowed upon the small hill on whose slopes the famous lettering is found. The climb of Sign Hill is but half a mile from this trailhead with a gain of about 400ft. The grass covering its slopes is a verdant green and the park appears to be quite popular - there were perhaps a dozen other parties hiking it at the same time. A network of trails allow one to climb all over the hill, including along the lettering found on its SW side. The Iris Hill Trail that climbs to one side of the lettering is rather steep and fitted with railroad ties to create steps in the dirt slopes - I used this on the descent. The summit is home to a small collection of communication towers and a tall wooden pole used to create an electric Christmas tree during the holiday season. The summit rocks are found between these two installations, only a few feet higher than the surroundings. The summit offers decent views overlooking the city looking west and south. To the north and east rises the much higher San Bruno Mountain - I had hoped to make a 3-4mi loop to incorporate this into the afternoon as well, but I was out of time and had to head back to the volleyball venue. Perhaps another time...

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This page last updated: Sat Feb 6 19:17:09 2016
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