Located at the northwest tip of the Californian state, is the city of Palo Alto which borders Stanford and Menlo Park. If you love all things nature, you will find yourself at home here. This city of around 67,000 in population hosts some of the most stunning and scenic nature reserves in the state. In Palo Alto, you could roam around for hours, and with up to 121 hectares (300 acres) of open land on your doorstep, you will be far from bored. Whether you are visiting Palo Alto for a short wander or a long hike, let the city wow you and prove that it is a great hiking destination!
Read on to find out about the parks in Palo Alto, a definite thing to do when visiting:
1. Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
History and nature come together to create the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve! With its unique hilltop, grassland ridges and forest areas, there is nothing quite like this place. It has over 540 hectares (1,335 acres) of open land to explore and it is fairly dog-friendly (except on the Lost and Razorback trails). The preserve was formed in 1980 and with the agreement of further extension, Windy Hill became the preserve it is to date.
In 1987, 173 hectares (429 acres) were added to the original mass area. Windy Hill is not just limited to hiking though. Why not hire a bike for the day or go horse riding along one of the many beautiful trails? It is definitely a place you should add to your travel itinerary whether it be rain or shine.
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
Address: 94028 Portola Valley, CA
Website: Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
2. Foothills Park
Situated in the Los Altos Hills, Foothills Park is known to be wildlife ridden with deer, coyotes and even bobcats in sight. Spanning over 566.5 hectares (1,400 acres), this park includes 24 kilometers (15 miles) of hiking trails - the longest being the 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) Los Trancos Trail. Other activities available include fishing.
In the nearby Boronda Lake, you can catch fish such as bass which will be sure to satisfy any keen fisher. Boating is also permitted within the lake. You are free to explore the water with your own non-motorized boat. Canoes are also available for hire. In addition, there is also an opportunity to camp within the beautiful scenery in the Towle campsite. However you spend your time at Foothills Park, it will certainly be a trip to remember!
Address: 3300 Page Mill Rd, 94022 Los Altos Hills, CA
Website: Foothills Park
3. Pearson-Arastradero Preserve
This stunning nature preserve hosts over 16.4 kilometers (10.2 miles) of trails for keen hikers, bikers and horse riders. Bare in mind that some of the trails are seasonal, so make sure you visit the preserve at the right time to trek these trails. Consisting of different terrain types such as vast savanna grassland as well as forestry, the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve could be right up your alley. You will be sure to find everything you are looking for here - whether it be a quiet fishing session, a glimpse of wildlife or an attractive view of the bay.
Address: 1530 Arastradero Rd, 94304 Palo Alto, CA
Website: Pearson-Arastradero Preserve
4. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
Situated in the picturesque Santa Cruz Mountains, the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is a 1,390-hectare (3,436-acre) open space of pure beauty. There are four trails to choose from; Stevens Creek, Canyon, Bella Vista/Indian Creek and the Grizzly Flat. They all offer varied view points from the Black Mountain to the Stevens Creek Canyon where the earthquake of 1989 took place. With its lush grassland as well as rocky terrain, there really is a lot to explore here.
Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
Address: 95033 Los Gatos, CA
Website: Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
5. Baylands Nature Preserve
The Baylands Nature Preserve is one of the largest in the San Francisco area, spanning over 785 hectares (1,940 acres). With 24 kilometers (15 miles) of trails available, you are able to take part in many activities such as canoeing, biking and bird watching (the reserve is considered to be one of the best spots on the West Coast). The length of the trails run through varied animal habitats, so expect to see a lot of different species of wildlife during your visit, such as foxes, raccoons, swallows and rare harvest mice. The nearby Baylands Athletic Center provides even more activities including baseball and softball if you are the sporty type. Also worth a mention is the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, which leads on to a breathtaking 360-degree view of the San Francisco Bay.
Baylands Nature Preserve
Address: 94303 Palo Alto, CA
Website: Baylands Nature Preserve
6. El Palo Alto Park
Located in the East Palo region of Palo Alto city, El Palo Alto Park spans a smaller 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) in area. The Tall Tree is situated here, which is where the city’s name originated from. The landmark tree is currently 2 meters (90 inches) in diameter and has a 12-meter (472-inch) crown spread. In addition to this, there are other peaks of interest available to view such as descriptive plaques which provide historical and environmental information on the San Francisquito Creek Watershed. Beautiful forestal landscapes are also in sight to provide you with a remarkable view whilst having a short stroll.
El Palo Alto Park
Address: 117 Palo Alto Ave, 94301 Palo Alto, CA
Website: El Palo Alto Park
7. Esther Clark Nature Preserve
Esther Clark Nature Preserve is an attractive park which spans around 8.4 hectares (21 acres). Situated in the Los Altos region, this nature preserve is a place of natural, unspoiled beauty due to no real developments surrounding the area. This pretty location seems to be the perfect place to have some chill time alone reading a book or watching the sun set over the Los Altos Hills. Even though there are no extra amenities within this park, it is genuinely not required with this place of beauty.
Esther Clark Nature Preserve
Address: Old Trace Lane, 94301 Palo Alto, CA
Website: Esther Clark Nature Preserve
8. Byxbee Park
Located on the east side of Palo Alto, Byxbee Park is a stunning open space which is around 12 hectares (29 acres) in area. The most inviting part of this space is the many trails available for you for hiking. A recommended route is from Byxbee Park to Mountain View’s Shoreline Park which is 3 kilometers (2 miles) in length which boasts incredible mountainous viewpoints. Keen walkers can walk further on the path to the Shoreline Lane.
Byxbee Park is also an amazing place to spot various forms of wildlife such as Canada geese and pelicans. As well as amazing scenic views, the park boasts an array of art installations located in different spots of the space including ‘Field of Poles.’ This consists of a range of poles buried at varying depths in the ground which creates intriguing patterns. Byxbee Park is a park not just for nature lovers but also for creatives.
Address: 2375 Embarcadero Rd, 94303 Palo Alto, CA
Website: Byxbee Park
Quality hikes with breathtaking views to match
Large open spaces, varied views, and a range of activities to entertain the whole family make Palo Alto the city to be in the summer months. With a vast array of scenery to explore, this will be a beautiful destination that you will be sure to remember for a long time. Palo Alto is a real gold mine for keen hikers around the world!
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