Sign for Foothills Park at the park's entrance.

Hike a Freed Park – Foothills Park in Palo Alto

After 51 years Palo Alto lost an ACLU case and now has to open its Foothills Park to the public. Previously this gem was only open for Palo Alto residents and their guests. 

Kind of a city wide country club if you will. As a holiday gift to the neighboring people this 1,400-acre park with multiple levels of hiking trails, picnic areas, a lake, and a campground has been open since December 17th 2020. See a PDF park map here.

Fishing pier at Boranda Lake.

The campground, Towle Camp, is open from May to October and you can make reservations online. Fishing is allowed with a licence if you are 16 and older. Boronda Lake prohibits swimming, but non-motorized boats are allowed. Canoes are available for rent, weather permitting, weekends and holidays from May to October. Dogs are only permitted during the week on leash. 

Sign for Woodrat Trail at Foothills Park, Palo Alto.

Of course they have COVID restrictions in place, like social distancing and masks, but the restrooms, except in the Nature Center, are open. Some hiking trails are one-way, but they have trail maps posted everywhere. 

Pole at Panorama Trail with the direction of San Francisco.

I drove up to Panorama Trail first. Taking in the beautiful view. To make it more interesting they put out poles with points of interest to see through pipes . Some of the locations you might spot are Oakland, San Francisco, Mt Diablo, and San Jose. 

Boranda Lake

The hiking trail around the lake was somewhat muddy and I regretted not having switched into my hiking boots. From the main entrance I took the Tayon trail into the Woodrat trail and looped back to my car for a 1.5 mile hike. 

There is a lot to explore here and people were happy to do so. Watch out for bikers on Page Mill Rd!

“Starting Saturday, January 9, every weekend and holiday the entrance to Foothills Park will be closed between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ” Please check the City of Palo Alto website before you go: https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/…/foothills/default.asp

Have you been to the Foothills Park?

If you like to explore some more of Palo Alto you can check out my page for 50 things to do in Palo Alto, or 50 things to do in Stanford.

Stairs from Trailhead, Saratoga view from the top.

Climb some Stairs in Saratoga

Sometimes hiking is a planned activity. These days with limited access you have to be flexible.

View of the top of trailhead in Saratoga.

We headed out to Fremont Older in Cupertino, which has a small parking lot. It was full on arrival and we decided to turn around. On our way back we discovered a sign marked Trailhead. This short hike starts on Prospect Rd in Cupertino. You’ll pass a little stream and after crossing a street the trail runs through a housing development. That’s when you know you’ve crossed over to Saratoga. The houses are large and have huge backyards. 

Wooden stairs of trailhead in Saratoga.

The nice part of the trail is the wooden stairs after the development. I did not count how many stairs we climbed, but it was a fun way to get some exercise. Plus the views at the top are spectacular. A lot of locals are taking advantage of this trail. 

Have you been up the stairs of Trailhead?

Here is a list of all trails in Saratoga, CA: https://www.saratoga.ca.us/223/Trail-Maps

Other short hikes in Silicon Valley are for example Rancho San Antonio, Huddart Park, and Pulgas Ridge Preserve. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section.

Map of the Stanford Dish loop.

Run Around the Stanford Dish

It is vital these days to exercise.  A lot of public parks and open space preserves have been closed off, due to the excessive use and therefore people not being able to keep the 6ft required distance. 

We were lucky two weeks ago when my son and I decided to hike the Stanford Dish it was still open. As of April 3rd, they closed access to the Dish. 

The Stanford Dish

I have to confess I put the Stanford Dish hike in my 50 things to do in Stanford without ever being on the path. I am glad I did this hike before it got closed off. The path is concrete, which allows for wheelchairs and strollers, but keep in mind the alleviation changes dramatically – my health app said I climbed 22 floors that day!

Old radio telescope, Stanford Dish hike.

I always wanted to do this 3.8 mile loop passing the old radio telescope visible from 280. I was surprised that there are actually two radio telescopes! We parked at the Stanford parking lot, which is free. Be sure not to park in the residential area, because they will ticket.

The Dish is (usually) open from sunrise to sunset. No dogs, accept service dogs, or bicycles are allowed.

Stanford Dish

Have you hiked the Dish loop before?

Do you know of any hikes that are still open?