Welcome to San Mateo County
San Mateo County is incredibly convenient to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and this location makes it a desirable place to live. The county has an incredible variety of park land, open space and watershed, giving residents an array of recreational options on rocky shores and sandy beaches on the coast, dramatic mountain trails and parks, and miles of paths through the rolling hills and along the bay. San Mateo cities and towns have a vibrant restaurant scene supported by local farmer’s markets and wonderful grocers. Residents enjoy a wealth of boutique shopping, cultural and entertainment options, excellent schools, strong supporting services, and several options for recreation locally as well as in the surrounding environs.
In recent years, more companies are settling into office spaces and business parks in the county, creating more employment opportunities locally. The economy is booming in large part due growth in high tech, biotech, research and healthcare institutions, and transportation.
Lay of the land
San Mateo County sits on the San Francisco Peninsula, sandwiched between San Francisco and Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. The county has a long stretch of coast along the Pacific with sandy beaches, large bluffs, strategically placed lighthouses, and a variety of coastal villages and towns. The bay front coast is much more populous, with many cities and urban centers spread along the water right off of Highway 101. Highway 280 moves up the hilly center, with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains that stretch up the western coast and the lower hills peppering the middle.
The county is only 448.1 square miles, making it the second smallest county in the Bay Area and one of the smallest in the state. San Mateo has 758,581 residents (according to the U.S. Census’ 2014 estimate) and ranks as the fifth smallest population in the Bay Area. Redwood City is the county seat, while Daly City is the largest city.
Several highways and freeways run up and down San Mateo, connecting to the city, the East Bay, and the South Bay (1, 280, 101, 92 and 84). Public transportation includes SamTrans buses and Caltrain trains. Ferry connections are available from Oyster Point in South San Francisco to Jack London Square and the Alameda Ferry Terminal. The San Francisco International Airport is located between San Bruno and San Mateo on the Bay. Residents looking for airport access also have limited access to BART.
The award-winning San Mateo schools include 173 public schools serving around 90,000 students in 23 districts. A variety of parochial, secular, Catholic, and other independent private schools are available in the county as well.
Higher education offerings include Stanford University, which sits just over the county line in Santa Clara County. San Mateo residents can choose from three community colleges: Canada College in Redwood City, Skyline College in San Bruno, and the College of San Mateo in San Mateo. Other choices include Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont and Menlo College in Atherton.
The county has a strong showing in technology and science. The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park is one example.
Live music offerings include several in San Mateo, including B Street & Vine and Grape & Grain, and the Sequoia Theater in Redwood City.
Local regional theatre includes San Mateo Performing Arts Center in San Mateo and the College of San Mateo.
More than 50 structures are on the National Register of Historic Places in the county, including the Filoli Mansion in Woodside and Carolands Mansion in Hillsborough, holdouts of another era; the Southern Pacific Depot in San Carlos and the Menlo Park Station, both stops on the Southern Pacific Railroad that are now serving as Caltrain stations; and the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Point Montara Light Station, which were built in the 1870s. Pigeon Point is still active today, while Point Montara houses a youth hostel.
The Pacific Coast surf is famous, most notably with the annual Mavericks surfing competition at Mavericks Beach, north of Half Moon Bay at Princeton-by-the-Sea.
Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos is a great spot to learn about the history of aircrafts.
Año Nuevo State Park is home to the largest colony of northern elephant seals breeding on the mainland and well worth a visit.
The great outdoors
San Bruno Mountain State Park borders Brisbane, South San Francisco, Colma and Daly City. The park has a picnic area, hiking, and terrific views of the city and the bay views. If you’re ambitious enough to climb the 1,314 foot summit, look for the remains of a Nike Missile early warning radar site.
Junipero Serra County Park lies to the east of Highway 280 and offers views of the airport and the bay. It has picnic areas, a playground, and walking trails with lovely views.
The Crystal Springs Reservoir is a popular hiking spot that is part of a network of regional parks operated by the County of San Mateo Parks Department. Crystal Springs is watershed lands with miles of great trails with soaring views of the mountains, canyons, and valleys.
Coastal options include state beaches, each with their own character. Some are sandy crescents, while others offer rocky cliffs or seasonal tide pools. Some of the local state beaches include: Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, Gray Whale Cove, Montara, Pescadero, and San Gregorio State Beach. Parking can be precarious at the smaller options.
The Santa Cruz Mountains contain all sorts of hidden gems. Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve above Half Moon Bay has trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. San Pedro Valley Park outside of Pacifica provides great hiking and picnicking. Rancho Corral de Tierra is in the foothills above Moss Beach. Further south, in the mountainous area surrounding La Honda above Pescadero, camping and hiking options include San Mateo County Memorial Park, Portola Redwoods State Park, and Butano State Park. Although Big Basin State Park is technically just over the border in neighboring Santa Cruz County, It is the oldest park in the state and is worth mentioning for its ancient redwoods, excellent camping, and ready mountain biking and hiking.
Moving to the bay side of the county, Coyote Point Recreation Area has a wonderful playground along with multiuse trails and picnic areas. A little further south, Bair Island in Redwood City has acres of trails on the water. It is part of Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is a great option for people working in Redwood City who want exercise midday.
Cities Located in San Mateo County
- Daly City
- El Granada
- Foster City
- Half Moon Bay
- La Honda
- Menlo Park
- Moss Beach
- Portola Valley
- Redwood City
- San Bruno
- San Carlos
- San Gregorio
- San Mateo
- South San Francisco
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