A new $13.5-million bridge,
the Flintstone house,
and many miles of paved trail
Crystal Springs
County Regional Park

Neil Wiley

In January, a new 626-foot bridge was opened over the Crystal Springs Dam. It only took eight years.

It was worth it. A new entry-counter system has logged more than 600,000 visitors on Crystal Springs trails. The bridge opens vehicle traffic on Highway 35 between Crystal Springs Road and Bunker Hill Drive.

Entering from the Sawyer Camp Trailhead, pedestrians and bikers can turn back to the left along a beautiful, two-lane 15-foot-wide recreational trail. They are protected from vehicular traffic while enjoying views of the scenic Crystal Springs Reservoir.
The views are also improved through relocation of electrical transmission lines under rather than over the bridge.

While the views of the reservoir from the bridge are impressive, man-made constructions to the east are worth a look. You can see the award-winning Doran Memorial Bridge that carries Interstate 280 traffic 400 feet above San Mateo Creek. If you peek under the bridge, you can also see the “Flintstone House,” known for its unusual domed structure. Shotcrete was sprayed over inflated aeronautical balloons onto steel rebar and mesh frames.

When built in 1976, the home was painted a pristine white, but a new owner in 2007 repainted in orange and purple. To make it even more interesting (or bizarre), statues of three dinosaurs, a giraffe, and a mastodon appeared in the garden. We can’t see inside, but I’ve read that it is also creative, unique, and a little weird. It all sounds wonderful, but would you like to live there?

Back in the natural world, you can continue south to link to the Crystal Springs segment from Highway 92 south. Bikers can extend their ride along the west side of Cañada Road. The first miles south on Highway 35 don’t look that interesting, because bushes and high fences block the view, but you can extend the trip up to 18 miles to see the Pulgas Water Temple, Filoli Gardens, and Huddart County Park. On some Sundays, Cañada Road is closed for 2.5 miles to vehicular traffic between Highway 92 and Edgewood.

For a casual walk with more views of the reservoir, I chose walking north. From the Sawyer Camp Trailhead, a seven-mile round trip takes you along the lake to the Jepson Laurel Tree area and back. The tree is not that exciting, but the two-lane trail is relatively flat, paved, and blessed with great lake views and occasional benches. If you are more adventurous, you can walk or bike along this same trail north past San Andreas Lake and Sweeney Ridge. These trails don’t offer solitude, but you should see lots of walkers, photographers, and bikers. The problem isn’t hikers or bikers, it is parkers, especially on weekends.

Parking is difficult. The lot at the end of the bridge is very small. On a mid-week winter day, cars were parked all along nearby roads.

Although it appears that equestrians are allowed, pavement isn’t the best surface for horses. Dogs and other pets are not allowed.
Drinking water is available at the Jepson Laurel Tree area, but it’s safer to bring your own. Pit toilets are located at several places along the trail. I received some bad news. A fellow photographer warned me of car break-ins.

To reach the Sawyer Camp Trailhead and the Crystal Springs Dam Bridge, drive north on 17/85/280, turn left (west) on Highway 92, and right on north Highway 35. Look for parking after you pass the bridge.

If your GPS hasn’t been updated since January, it won’t recognize that the bridge over the dam is open. (In January, the Google map still showed the bridge under construction.) Your GPS may take you on a circuitous route, but if you specify the Sawyer Camp Trailhead, or list the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Crystal Springs Road, 94010, you will find your way. Enjoy.