For a hike that’ll transport you back in time—and to a place with legendary panoramas—head to the Peninsula’s Sweeney Ridge. In 1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá trudged over this hilly range and discovered the San Francisco Bay. Today there are several well-trodden ways to hike up to Sweeney Ridge, but the 5-mile (roundtrip) trail from Pacifica's Shelldance Orchid Nursery treats with non-stop ocean views.
Starting from Morey Ridge Trail, ascend a wide path flanked by short shrubbery that pays out unobstructed views of the Pacific. Late-to-bloom wildflowers like Indian paintbrush pop some color along the way. After about a mile and a half, head right onto the Sweeney Ridge Trail where you’ll pass the Cold War-era Nike missile site and get views of all the Bay’s major mountains: Montara, Diablo, Tam, and even the Farrallones, 30 miles offshore. A stone monument marks the spot where de Portolá discovered the Bay. Go ahead, update your Facebook status with “I just discovered the San Francisco Bay!”<br/><br/>Pacifica’s Shelldance Orchid Nursery trailhead can only be reached from northbound Hwy. 1. If coming on southbound Hwy. 1, go a quarter-mile past the nursery and make U-turn at Reina Del Mar. Turn right into Shelldance Orchid Nursery and follow the road back .3-mile to the trailhead parking area. Dog-friendly!</div>.
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. The entrance to the beach is just south of Fort Funston. Park on Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard) at the gate across from John Daly Boulevard.