I haven’t had much spare time since I moved to the US, but during weekends and holidays we’ve occasionally been around some of the more scenic spots of the Bay Area. There’s no lack of beautiful nature in the vicinity; from Big Basin to Yosemite, there’s an abundance of national parks. Not as well-known, but as visually stunning, is the Crystal Springs area west of San Mateo.
We took Caltrain to the San Mateo station and biked westwards from there. The parts of San Mateo we saw, while not a very special neighborhood, were pleasant and somewhat sleepy. After a couple of blocks of garden-style township, the greenery quickly increased and we were out in the countryside. While the roads were winding, they were quite level and occasionally went uphill, but not too much to make it exhausting. The surroundings in the area are attractive and obviously a lot of affluent people live here, as we could see from some of the palatial (and sometimes bizarre) structures on the hilltops. As we were getting close to the reservoir we biked under the 280 freeway, which appeared majestically out of the hilly landscape, reminiscent of some bridges I’ve seen from pictures of Luxembourg.
This trip had its fair share of “eye-opening” scenery, where you would move around in secluded surroundings and suddenly come out into a panoramic vista of tens of miles of landscape. We had that experience while arriving at our first destination, the reservoirs at Crystal Springs, and the effect was mesmerizing. Instead of stopping to take in the scenery, both of us were so exhilarated that we biked around it in a few minutes.
After a while we got into thick forest again and headed northwards through dense and moist greenery. At certain points it almost reminded us of Scotland, but then an unusual tree or flower would remind us that we’re in a different area of the world. We weren’t the only people on this route, and given our leisurely pace we were often overtaken by more seasoned bikers.
The lake to the north of Crystal Springs, San Andreas, while not as gorgeous as the reservoir down south, was a nice backdrop and we stopped for quite a while to take in the place. After getting back on track, we decided to bike up north to the Millbrae station.
Passing under the 280 again, an enormous panorama opened up in front of us again and it was like we could see half of the Bay Area. Then we must have gone downhill for 15-20 minutes, and the road was so steep at times that it felt unpleasant, but it was also a relaxing experience somehow. I’m glad we chose not to go from the other direction. The steep uphill paths would probably have been too much for both of us.
Crystal Springs is a perfect area for a weekday hike or bicycle trip. It’s not very demanding and it has some extra fun if you like speed and bike down towards Millbrae.