The Best Hiking Destinations in the South Bay Area
Where do tech wunderkinds of Silicon Valley go to relax their minds and brainstorm new ideas? Chances are it’s far away, at least in spirit, from sprawling modern work campuses that populate the region.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to travel all that far to find tranquility. When you stay in Palo Alto, amongst the headquarters of some of tech’s biggest companies, remember – you’re situated right between a stunning bay and mountainous regions resplendent with redwoods.
So, of course you want to explore a little bit. With many trails and access points scattered throughout the area, a stay here can make for a memorable hiking getaway. But even if you come here with different plans, it’s always worth taking at least a little extra time to bask in northern California’s natural wonder. Grab your most rugged attire, a good hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, some healthy snacks and a sturdy pair of shoes and get ready to take in the awe-inspiring sights at one of these great hiking destinations.
The Stanford “Dish”
A place where college students, nature lovers and locals all convene for fresh air and lovely scenery, the “dish,” as it’s widely known, is Stanford University’s beloved outdoor recreational area and home to the school’s impressive (and rather large) radio telescope. A 3.5-mile loop takes you through a good swath of the area’s natural landscape via a path weaving through lush grasslands and mountain vistas. The length, and the fact that it’s so easy to navigate, make it perfect for jogging as well, but you should also stop to savor the surroundings (and spot some of the California tiger salamanders roaming the premises). There are three entrance gates, the most popular being the Stanford Ave. gate at the intersection of Stanford Ave. and Junipero Serra Blvd., and the Girona gate near Stanford Ave. and Alpine Road.
Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve
Prepare to be transported to another world when you visit the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. You may still be in California, but the rolling green hills that surround you will make you feel like you’ve stepped into an episode of “Game of Thrones”. Here you’ll find multiple trails to choose from, each posing different levels of difficulty so that hikers of all stripes can enjoy the surrounding beauty. The Arrowhead Trail is an excellent medium-difficulty hike that stretches across four miles of the 348-acre preserve. While you’ll have to deal with a few hills, the effort is well worth it. The higher elevations reward all who climb them with sweeping panoramic vistas out of a fantasy novel. Just remember to bring some water (chances are you won’t pass too many refill station on your hike) and to leave your pets behind (except for service dogs) behind. 550 Palm Ave, Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
Ideal for a whole day affair, with countless gorgeous lookout points perfect for pulling out a picnic lunch, the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is cradled in a section of Portola Valley that sits high above sea level, giving visitors the perfect vantage point from which to take in picturesque views of both the Pacific and San Francisco Bay. The trail loops here are eight miles on average and classified as difficult. If you can handle it, however, it’s well worth embarking on an adventure here – especially when the wildflowers are in bloom to paint the countryside.
Alum Rock Park
With the distinct honor of being the oldest municipal park in all of California, San Jose’s Alum Rock Park, founded in 1872, is also one of the state’s most well-kept. This urban green space is definitely worth writing home about. The park’s location just outside of the main city gives it a nice secluded feel. There are many different paths, abundant wildlife (bird watchers rejoice!) and plentiful recreational options including volleyball pits, natural springs, playgrounds and picnic areas. You can also check out the natural history exhibits at the Youth Science Center, located right on the perimeter of the park. 15350 Penitencia Creek Rd, San Jose
Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve
Have one day left in your trip and can’t decide between wine tasting or a hike? Why not venture to the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Reserve – the rare green space where you can do both in a single afternoon. Walk the three-mile loop that takes you through the rolling hills of the Picchetti Winery vineyards and orchards, then retreat to the tasting room for a glass or two of their famous Zinfandel. 13100 Montebello Rd, Cupertino