A man walking

Hide inside a Giant Redwood, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Welcome sign to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Start of the New Year with a hiking challenge at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. First Day Hikes is a nationwide program to promote a healthy lifestyle. To start off easy I recommend the 40-acres Redwood grove at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The loop trail is a 0.8 miles flat hike. The loop starts at the visitor center, which is only open Friday – Sundays from 10am to 3pm. During the rain it gets muddy, so it isn’t wheelchair accessible, at least in the wet months. If you’d like to learn about the park while on the trail I recommend downloading the audio tour and then start on the right hand side of the loop. This way the audio clues are counting up. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle.

The beginning of the loop trail.

We did enjoy the rain and were somewhat covered by these 1,500 year old trees. There are a few possibilities to ‘hide’ inside one of the giants. The largest is the Fremont tree, it was the campside of the Fremont exhibition which surveyed the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. A whole family can fit inside the Fremont tree. You should bring a flashlight to look around while inside. The other options are more covers than hiding spots. But nevertheless they give you a close encounter with these majestic trees. 

In addition to the 0.8 loop there are a few other trails with different difficulty levels and terrains.

I'm in a tree

In January, each Saturday at noon, there will be an Old-Growth Redwood Tour. Check out their event page for even more educational fun.    

Have you ever hid inside a Redwood tree?

Bench with spray painted Peace

Find Peace Hiking the Milagra Ridge, Pacifica

Entrance to a bunker with graffiti at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Historically the Milagra Ridge was not known for peace, in fact several 6-inch guns were mounted here in 1948 as part of a project to protect San Francisco. In 1959, Milagra Ridge was known as Nike Missile Site SF-51. Surface-to-air missiles were stationed here and the entire area was fenced and patrolled by guards with dogs. You can still see the remaining bunkers, now spray painted with graffiti. 

View from the Miragra trail towards the Pacific.

These days Milagra Ridge gives shelter to threatened and endangered species, like the Mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterfly, and the California red-legged frog. This makes this park exceptionally vulnerable to human disturbance. Maybe this also explains the minimal parking, about six spaces off Sharp Park Rd. 

Nevertheless nowadays Milagra Ridge offers amazing views, weather permitting, of the Pacific. You can see the Pacifica pier from here. The hike itself was fairly easy. We did loop around for a 1.5 mile hike, and there were some steps involved. But if you are wheel-dependent there are also some paved roads. I was disappointed that the labyrinth was closed off due to butterfly protection efforts.

Labyrinth at Milagra Ridge, Pacifica.

Milagra Ridge is a 239 acres park of the National Park Service Open Space in Pacifica and part of the 119 square mile Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Where do you find peace?

Steps to an overlook at Milagra Ridge trail.

Another option to find a peaceful hike is the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel.

If you are looking for more hikes with steps I wrote the post for a hike in Saratoga: 

Climb some Stairs in Saratoga

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?