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The Parks of San Carlos February 12, 2009

San Carlos Parks: Big Canyon Park

by Chuck Gillooley

The Parks of San Carlos” is an occasional series that will highlight each of the great parks and trails that we have in here San Carlos.   My wife Patty and I (along with our dog Maggie) will be checking out each and every one of the 15 or so parks in San Carlos and bringing them alive in these pages.

This week…Big Canyon Park.

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Why did we decide to start the series with Big Canyon Park?   It’s simple — we’ve never been there!  It really surprised me that although we’ve have lived in San Carlos for over 20 years, and that between hauling kids to soccer practice at Crestview and running up and down Brittan Avenue looking at properties, we have probably driven by this park a thousand times…  yet we never stopped to check it out.    That’s our loss, because this park is an absolute gem.

Where is it?

Located toward the top of Brittan Avenue…


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…it’s a snap to find. Just park right on the street, and you’re there.

The details…

You’d definitely categorize this as a hiking park, not a “playground” park. The centerpiece of this 16-acre park is the 1.2 mile trail that the City website refers to as “challenging.” Indeed, after you’re on the relatively flat trail-head for only a few hundred yards…

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…you immediately start to scale your way up the side of the canyon through a series of switch-backs.   Since the trail is a essentially a loop, you can start at either side.   We chose the western side (or left as you’re facing the park.)   This seems to be the green side of park, with the hillside and the trees providing a canopy of shade.    You’ll cross a series of footbridges as you navigate the switch-backs that take you to the top of the canyon.

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Once you get to the top of the park (from either direction) you’ll be spoiled with some incredible views of the canyon and the San Carlos hills.   The City even installed some benches along the top of the trail that you can use to rest, meditate, or just soak up the great views…

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If you’ve hiked through either Edgewood Park or Arguello Park, you can’t help but notice the similarity in the terrain and the scenery.  This stands to reason, since all three parks aren’t that far apart, geographically speaking.     If you’re interested in checking out the park, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Things to know before you go…

  1. There are no bathrooms in this park, so “go before you go” if you know what I mean.
  2. Dogs are OK in the park, although they must be kept on leash.
  3. The trails are well maintained, but the fall-line of the hillside is steep in parts.  You definitely need to pay attention while you’re hiking.
  4. Some of the footbridges don’t have handrails — same advice above about paying attention.
  5. There’s no playground equipment for the kids.   It’s Mother Nature’s playground in this park.
  6. Directly across Brittan Ave you can connect to the northern trail head to Eaton Park, if you’d like to continue hiking.   (We’ll cover that one in a future review.)

That’s it!  If you’re looking for a quick hike that will get your heart racing in more ways than one, you can’t ask for more than what you’ll find in Big Canyon Park.   Enjoy!

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