City of San Carlos - Eaton-Big Canyon Trail


Eaton - Big Canyon with Trail Notes & Nature Guides

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To enhance your enjoyment of this trail we have noted features at each tenth mile interval.  Keep your eyes and ears alert to enjoy the scurrying mammals, reptiles, and singing birds along the way – see the lists of those who live in this area.We hope you’ll return in different seasons to enjoy nature’s ever-changing show!


Eaton - Big Canyon with Trail

To Start at Eaton Park Trail-Head


The trail begins at the end of Eaton Avenue.The trail is well marked and easy to follow except where it merges with or departs from jeep roads. Look for orange surveyor’s tape, orange stakes, orange pipes, or orange discs in such places.After 172 feet, the trail bears to the right, away from the main jeep road, which goes to the site of a house which used to stand there.The trail then crosses a little seasonal stream in a shady place with ferns, then crosses over to another drainage with oak trees and Poison Oak.(Don’t touch the Poison Oak which has clusters of 3 green or red leaves.)


The trail crosses an old road, no longer used, and begins a switchbacking ascent of a grassy slope.


The trail passes an olive tree, meets a jeep road (fire trail), and turns sharply left onto it.


At the saddle is a four-way junction.To the right, a recommended side trail takes you to a knoll with a commanding panoramic view of San Francisco, the Bay, and the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Diablo, Mission Peak, Mt. Hamilton, and Loma Prieta.The jeep road to the left goes up the ridge and eventually passes through an easement and connects with Loma Road at its highest point.

Our trail goes straight ahead under a low-hanging branch of a big oak tree.Please be careful.


A shady canyon is entered.What plants do you see?


A short foot bridge.Watch your step.


A small stream is crossed.What birds do you hear or see?


A pair of switchbacks takes you to an open area.Deer are often seen grazing on the hills across Brittan Avenue.This is a good place to look for spring wildflowers.


A cascading stream during the rainy season.


When the surrounding homes were built, a deep canyon here was filled.To stabilize the soil, plants were irrigated by sprinklers until they were established.


An early version of this trail, started in 1973, rough in places, was finished here by the Sierra Club on April 21, 1984.Look for the “Golden” Spike in a tree.After climbing out of a gully, you may rest on a bench in an open area.This was an Eagle Scout project.


There are so many switchbacks here, it resembles Lombard Street in San Francisco.This route was chosen to avoid unnecessary intrusion on the privacy of the homes nearby.

After the switchbacks, you will drop steeply down some big steps made of railroad dies.The upper portion was an Eagle Scout project, and the lower steps were built by the San Carlos Parks and Recreation Department.

As you pass between the houses through the narrow easement, please walk quietly and respect the rights of those who live here.


Cross Brittan Avenue, pass another Eagle Scout bench, and walk up the service road to the place where the stream enters the storm drain system.The Loop Trail starts here.You may go either right or left, but this description assumes you will go ahead to the left – in order to better enjoy the view.


Cross a bridge and then turn sharply left at a switchback.


As you cross the next bridge, look for Trillium and ferns in February/March.Then climb up to a trail junction.If you go straight ahead, you will come to an Eagle Scout bench.You may continue past the water tanks, cross Crestview Drive, go through Crestview Park, and connect with Leslie Drive

Our trail turns sharply to the right, curves to the left, and crosses a seasonal stream in the shadow of a water tank.


The trail passes under some big Bay trees and curves left and enters a steep wooded canyon.


A bridge and 2 switchbacks take you up to a scenic viewpoint with an Eagle Scout bench.Take time to enjoy the view.


The highest point of the trail is reached.The predominant plant here is Chamise.The trail drops steeply between two switchbacks.


We urge you to use the trail rather than the bridge.If you can’t resist the bridge, then please limit the load to one person at a time.

On your way down the east side of Big Canyon you will have excellent views, since there are few trees.


Another Eagle Scout bench with a fine view.


A big Oak tree and five switchbacks.


The end of the loop.Back to the service road.This narrative ends.We hope you have enjoyed this walk.

Thanks to Bob Young of the Native Plant Society and Sierra Club Trail Committee, for providing this PDF document listing the Flora at Big Canyon & Eaton Trail.  

How many of these did you see today along the Eaton-Big Canyon Trail?
Click on the form below to note your sightings

Did you see any new species? Let us know!
For scientific plant or animal names contact the Sierra Club.