Hike Date: July 9, 2011
Distance: ~ 8 miles
Trail(s): Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail, Bay Area Ridge Trail
Where’s it at? 3 trailheads. Hwy 92 and Hwy 35 between Half Moon Bay and Belmont


The Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail is a fairly new opportunity for hikers, bikers, and equestrians to explore the San Francisco Watershed on a volunteer-guided tour. I was particularly interested in visiting because it is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and is one of the few trails that winds through pristine fir forest lands on the peninsula. And I knew it wouldn’t be crowded!

The entire trail is 10 miles long but there are varying events scheduled on the sfwater.org website that are out and back hikes of shorter distances, etc. The section that I signed up for was a shorter, easy hike at about 4 miles out, and 4 miles back, from the Cemetery Gate Trailhead. There is really minimal elevation gain, but just enough to get you clear of the fog often in the area this time of year. It was a pretty cool day but we all got a little warm on the final mile or mile and a half. I will be visiting on one of the longer, more challenging hikes later in the summer; it’s hard to find a longer one without checking their site frequently.

I’d been wanting to do this hike for a while and had signed up earlier in the year, but it got rained out. You have to make reservations and register on the sfwater.org website in advance, and they usually close registration a little more than 24 hours in advance of the departure time, or when the group fills up. Use the links below if you’re interested in registering.

On this hike there were only 4 people signed up so we had a small group. I hadn’t done any group hikes before so I wasn’t sure if it would be an annoying snail’s pace or not. Luckily it was just about a perfect pace. The normal docent, John, was not around on this one so we were guided by Jeff. As I understand it John is more of the naturalist and ‘owner’ of the guided hikes, but Jeff still had a lot of good information. He tended to talk and be the most knowledgeable about the watershed and how water travels from Hetch Hetchy to here, what happens if it overflows, etc. I have to say I learned more than I thought I would about how the water system works.

I was surprised at how protected this area was. There was nobody else around except one other guy working that day, but I mean there were gates all around which were locked, and you couldn’t really get anywhere near the water. There were bathrooms every 1 mile (it says every 2 miles on their site but not in this section), which prevents the urge to find a good bush nearby.

The trail is a gravel road for trucks to travel on, but really, it wasn’t that full of gravel and was easy to hike on. However, I did see large piles of new gravel at the beginning, and the presumption would be that they’re about to re-gravel the roads. This was definitely the cleanest hike I’ve EVER been on, not a single tiny scrap of trash anywhere. The hike is mostly through a cool old growth fir forest, although I guess some of it has also been planted. That’s where John the naturalist guide would have come in. You could definitely tell that in some areas the trees were much bigger and the shrubs much more full than in others. There was a lot of poison oak but the trail is so wide that it would’ve been harder to rub against it than avoid it.

The only disappointment for me was how little wildlife there actually was around. It’s said to have a large number of endangered species. I saw a lot of butterflies, and two separate deer, but that’s really about it. Not a single rodent, snake, mountain lion, or coyote, and I didn’t even notice very many birds around.

I really enjoyed the hike and will be writing again soon about a longer version. Definitely recommend checking out this one if you can plan ahead and get a reservation.

Photos from Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail(click to enlarge)

Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/
http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-fifield-cahill-ridge-trail/
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail
Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiking Fifield-Cahill part of Bay Area Ridge Trail

Directions to Cemetery Gate Trailhead Pullout


View Hiking Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail in SF Watershed in a larger map

Weather at Belmont, CA (east and lower)