So far this has been my favorite spot we’ve hiked here in Silicon Valley. We parked at Piers Gate on Alpine Road and I think that was a very lucky accident. Directly across from the Portola Valley Training Center there was a small parking lot as well as some street side parking. From here it is a mile walk (paved, uphill) to the Dish and to the 3.25 mile loop. The 1 mile walk, called Ranch Road, was less crowded then the loop and I got the impression that was typical as most people park at Gerona, Frenchman’s, or Stanford Gate.
It’s important to note that this is a private park owned by Stanford and guests are only allowed on the paved paths. There are also signs providing instructions if you have run-ins with mountain lions, coyotes, or wild turkeys. Also, if you plan to picnic, you will need to set your blanket up on the path. We did this right by the dish where the road was wider and we had plenty of room to picnic without affecting traffic. There were no trash cans that we saw, so plan to carry everything out with you.
When we first entered through Pier’s Gate we were struck by the incredible emerald color of the grass which was growing wild and tall, by the incredible trees whose bark was peeling off, and by the felled trees and branches. Generally I would not describe the remains of dead trees as pleasant, but there was something about this debris that was charming and added as much character as the living trees. I would recommend entering through Pier’s Gate just to experience this section, it is really worth the trip.
From there the road opens up to a field and starts to climb upward. There are views the entire way, the fields are full of squirrels and prairie dogs, and 2 hawks were hunting in the sky. Half way up the path we passed a cow bridge and there starts to be a slight odor as well as many cow patties on the path. The children found this completely disgusting, but it’s good for them to connect with the less appealing parts of nature!
Once we reached the Dish and joined the loop, the crowds picked up significantly, but not so much that it wasn’t still a pleasant walk. The views from the loop proper include Stanford, Palo Alto, the Bay, and even San Francisco in the distance. We didn’t make it around the entire loop but we enjoyed the views and spotted some cows and a heron. Next time we’ll bring both baby carriers and do the entire loop plus the Ranch Road extension for a total of 5.25 miles. I think this will also be our go-to spot to bring guests.
Heron and cows