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Eaton/Big Canyon Parks

San Mateo County

March 29th, 2015

3.3 miles
840 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:49

Starting elevation
221 feet
Max elevation
677 feet

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From San Francisco, take 101 south to San Carlos. Exit at Brittan Ave. Follow Brittan Ave. past El Camino Real. Turn left onto Alameda de las Pulgas, then immediately turn right onto Graceland Ave. Follow Graceland as it turns into De Anza Road, then turn right onto Terrace Road. Turn right onto Eaton Ave. and park near the end of the street. There is street parking for a handful of cars.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

We've hiked in so many places in the Bay Area that it's hard to find hikes in parks we haven't done. We decided to spend one afternoon hiking in couple of city parks in the city of San Carlos. Eaton and Big Canyon Parks are small parks separated by Brittan Avenue.

Eaton Park has four entrances throughout the neighborhood (at Brittan Ave., Tramanto Drive, Eaton Ave., and Loma Drive). We started at the Eaton Ave. entrance. The trail starts out as a wide dirt fire road, climbing steadily from the start. The trail here is mostly shaded, which was nice since it was quite warm on this spring afternoon.

After just a couple minutes we reached a trail marker (not really a sign) and turned right. We crossed the top of an exposed metal pipe. The trail becomes singletrack and switchbacks up the hillside. As we climbed, we started to have views to our right of Palo Alto and Redwood City, the bay itself, and the mountains on the Fremont side.

View from the first climb near Eaton Ave.

Looking out toward Redwood City and Palo Alto

We reached another fire road and turned left onto the road. The trail is now unshaded as it climbs a bit more. At another trail marker, we turned right onto the single track as it re-enters the shade and starts to level off and then descend.

The trail is basically entirely in shade at this point. We encountered an occasional person walking in the opposite direction. Probably locals. We could soon see and hear traffic from Brittan Ave. below us to the right. We kept going straight on the trail, passing a couple of right turns that would have taken us back toward our trailhead. Eventually we reached a short trail to the right that descended a series of steep wooden steps between two houses to Brittan Ave.

Hillside homes across Brittan Ave.

On the trail

Flowers next to the trail

Emerging onto the street, we carefully crossed Brittan Ave. to reach Big Canyon Park on the other side. We passed a group of people hanging out here at a picnic table. Soon we saw a sign on our left saying "Start of Trail". We'd later find out that there was a matching sign on our right that we had missed. You can take either path, as they form a loop. We'd end up starting on the left portion of the loop.

We climbed the single track in the shade, passing a dry creek bed along the way. We soon reached a bench just below a water tower. From here we had some decent views looking toward the bay. We stopped here briefly for a break.

View from Big Canyon Park

Returning to the trail, we went back down a bit and continued along the loop trail. The trail eventually crosses the canyon, emerges from the shade, and starts a descent back to the park entrance. We kept to the right, ignoring a couple intersections on the left. Those would lead to the eastern part of Big Canyon Park.

Soon enough we were back at the start of the Big Canyon loop. We carefully crossed back over Brittan Ave., went up the steep staircase, and returned to the trailhead the same way we had come.

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