Foothills Nature Preserve – Palo Alto


What? :

Foothills Naturae Preserve Park is a large Palo Alto park that is open to the public. The park cover the hills at the south sections of Palo Alto and you can find here on top of many miles of hiking trails also large grassy field, lake, picnic sites, a walk-in, tent-only campground, and a nature interpretive center. You can fish in Boronda lake or just enjoy the trails.

Now, once the park is open to the public and it is not as crowded as it was (partly because of the 6$ entrance fee) I like my visit here, fun trails and nice view of the south-bay area.



Where? :

The Palo Alto Park is in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The park is bordered on most of its eastern boundary by Page Mill Road and from there is also the park entrance. You can also hike to this park from Pearson-Arastradero Preserve.

Google Map Link



When? :

The park is open year-round. 8:00 AM – Sunset.



Due note 1: There is a car entry fee of 6 $.


Due note 2: From 1969 until 2020, only residents or city employees of Palo Alto had lawful access to it, because of lawsuit the park was opened to the general public on December 17, 2020.


Due note 3: The Orchard Glen picnic area is a great place to have break, located in the middle of the park with large trees that provide shad during hot summer months. Tables and BBQ are first-come, first-served.


Due note 4: There are restrooms and drinking water in several locations.


Due note 5: Dogs are not permitted anywhere in Foothills Nature Preserve on weekends or city holidays. Dogs are only permitted on weekdays and must be on a leash.


Due note 6: Bicycles are allowed on paved roads only, and not on trails.


Due note 7: No remote-control devices, like drones, allowed in the park.


Due note 8: Camping: Towle Camp is a seasonal campground available for tent camping from May 1 to October 31.


Due note 9: The small Nature Interpretive Center has some exhibits, and it is located near the large open grassland in the middle of the park.




My thoughts:

This park was close to Palo Alto residence for many years and once it got open to the public it became extremely crowded during weekends, so I did not visit it.

I did few long hikes crossing the park and walking to the mountain ridge.

Recently I visited the park several times and find it less crowded and a fun place to visit, hike with friends and later have a picnic. There are many trails’ options so you can always “discover” a new trail.




The visit:


When visiting the park, I recommend visiting the small Boronda Lake near the park entrance. There are few parking spots on the road near the lake or you can park on the way to Vista Hill.

Another recommended point to visit is Vista Hill (elevation of 950ft) that provide open view north down to Palo Alto.


There are many options of hiking trails, which offer a variety of hiking experiences, from easy walk along the small lake shore, mid-level hikes in the nearby hills to longer hike crossing the park and climbing the Santa Cruz hills to the south.



Center Park Loop Hike, 5.5 miles long hike:

This is my favorite hike in the park and this loop can be modify and use other nearby trails to create it shorter or longer.

With this hike that start at the main park large open grassland you are passing through the hills and going down into the main valley and can combine it with lake side trail.


Link to AllTrails map:



Longer hikes passing through the park:

The park is located between 2 other large open space parks: Pearson-Arastradero Preserve on the north (lower hill section) and Los Trancos Open Space Preserve on its south boarder (higher mountain ridge).

The Bay-to-Ridge Trail runs through the park south-north.

Many times, I hiked into the park from Pearson-Arastradero Preserve connecting trail climbing up the hills to Los Trancos Open Space and from there to Black Mountain or to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.

Below are few hiking options how to hike through the park:


Link to AllTrails map:








Additional Pictures: