Conquering San Bruno Mountain

Before I start…Wordpress has recently changed how it lets you show photos. Beforehand I was able to select the size quite specifically. Now I either get to choose miniature or enormous. Clearly, I’m the kind of girl who will always pick enormous. I am sorry about this – you’ll just have to forgive me. 


As you drive north on the Peninsula towards San Francisco, you pass by this enormous hulk of mountain rising out of nowhere. It looks a bit like a sleeping giant. This is San Bruno Mountain. There’s a trail that runs across the long ridge at the top. We hiked up there once when the Dude was just a baby, and the views were spectacular. You can see San Francisco to the north, the Bay and the airport to the east, the ocean to the west and the peninsula stretching out to the south, all at the same time. It’s amazing up there.

I've used this photo before but it shows San Bruno in all its glory!
I’ve used this photo before but it shows San Bruno in all its glory!

Since I got into trail running, I’ve wanted to run there – along that trail specifically. And the idea has nagged and nagged away at me. Every time I drive past on my way to the city, I look up at the mountain and wish I was up there running. And on Saturday, I finally got to do it!

I met up with Jen and her friend Jess at the park in Brisbane. The Dude had been poorly all week (he is fine now, I didn’t abandon a sick child) so I’d had plenty of time inside to plan the route. However pretty quickly we discovered that a route on Google Maps bears very little relation to what it looks like on the ground. We got a little lost climbing out of Brisbane but with Jess’s smartphone map, we soon found ourselves at the base of the trail, Siskyou ‘Avenue’. It was basically a rough, steep hiking trail up. So up we hiked. It was almost vertical and awash with poppies. Soon enough, we emerged at the top onto the ridge trail and the views were spectacular!

Up we go…
Jen and Jess ‘pausing to admire the view’. We did a lot of pausing to admire views today
san bruno 3
The finest bottom in California 🙂 Photo Credit – Jess
Made it!

We set off westwards along Ridge Trail. It was a steady climb up to the radio towers at the top, but the trail was a total roller-coaster of steep little uphills and downhills. The views were amazing though and the weather was perfect.


Heading West Photo Credit: Jess
Heading West
Photo Credit: Jess

At the radio towers, we switched onto Summit Loop Trail which we took in a clockwise direction. We ran into a hiking group and did some mountain goat scampering to get past them, which was fun, and then Jess took a dramatic tumble from which she bounced up declaring ‘I’m okay, I’m okay’ and we ran on! The trail descended steadily down to a little creek with a very lopsided, rickety plank-bridge.

IMG_2533 From there, we faced the inevitable climb back up to the radio towers. It wasn’t too bad and the trail was beautiful!

san bruno 6
San Francisco in the distance Photo Credit: Jess

Back along Ridge Trail in the way we had come.


From there, we were all looking forward to our well-earned descent. But alas no. The trail we took down was as ridiculously steep as the one we’d initially climbed up, but was covered in large stones which made it somewhat treacherous. I ended up on my bottom at one point. Eventually it became a little less steep and easier to run.

Staying upright with the city in the background
san bruno 7
Photobomber! Photo Credit: Jess
san bruno 8
Finally, a runnable stretch of downhill Photo Credit: Jess

From there, it was an easy run back into Brisbane to the car, and then up to Madhouse Coffee for coffee and sandwiches. I’d been excited about my sandwich for a few miles now but alas they don’t do sandwiches at the weekend so I had to make do with a bagel. Sob.

If you’re interested in the logistics of the run, here is the route we took, minus the initial getting lost in Brisbane. I’d initially wanted to do this route but couldn’t find any online details about picking up the trail at the end of Harold Road so we opted for a different route. I believe the Harold Road route is do-able but am not sure.

All in all, we ran 10.44 miles in 2.16 at a 13.01 pace – not that that is important at all. The best thing about this run was the sense of adventure and exploration that we had. There’s something kind of cool about running up a mountain, around it and back down and an amazing sense of achievement. It was pretty brilliant, to be honest. Thanks Jen and Jess for the company and the entertaining conversations. What goes on the trail stays on the trail, eh??

BTW…on Wednesday, this week’s Running The World interview is with the amazing Preeti from India. I am honestly beside myself with excitement about it!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    Great write-up Cathryn! You and Jess both took awesome photos. You just saved me a great deal of work — I’m off to link this post to my blog now! 😉 Thanks again for organizing a great run!

  2. Cathryn says:

    Jess took the best ones, we should always take her on future runs 🙂

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks!! I don’t mind being the staff photographer!

      1. Cathryn says:

        You just got yourself a job title 😉

  3. Bean says:

    Jeez I am way behind. 1- loved the interview and love hearing about runners around the world. Brilliant idea! 2- trail running looks amazing and when my tendon is 100% I am off to hit the trails….well after it stops raining. 3-Wedding- you look lovely in that blue dress. Love it! 4- so excited you get to visit home! I am sure they are very excited to have you….and does this mean you can interview yourself about running in England….?;).

    1. Cathryn says:

      1 – thank you. Wednesday’s India interview is brilliant, if I say so myself! Totally due to Preeti who spoke to me. 2 – yes, you need to get back on the trails when you’re mended. 3 – thank you, I felt so foxy in it. 4 – so excited about going home! x

  4. Myjka says:

    Beautifull views girls!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Lovely to hear from you – and thanks, the views were amazing.

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