3.7 mile loop at a grassland and oak preserve.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.7 mile loop hike is easy, with about 400 feet in elevation
change. The elevation at the trailhead is around 300 feet. The preserve's
highest point is about 700 feet. Most trails climb on a gradual grade.
A few pockets of shade, otherwise completely exposed.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time; lovely in spring.
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit Page Mill Road and drive
west about 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Arastradero Road, continue about
0.5 mile, and turn right into the parking lot.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and stores a few miles northwest on Alpine Road. No camping.
Dirt parking which fills quickly on weekends. No entrance or parking fees. Toilets, pay phone, and drinking
water near the trail entrance. Maps available at the information signboard.
Although there is designated handicapped parking, and a wheelchair-accessible
portable toilet, this preserve is not wheelchair accessible. There is no
direct public transportation to the preserve, but you can walk into the
preserve from the Sam Trans stop: visit 511.org for details.
The preserve is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Dogs are permitted, but must
be leashed. Most trails are open to cyclists, equestrians, and hikers. A
few trails are open to hikers and equestrians only.
The Official Story:
of Palo Alto's Arastradero page
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the preserve.
from City of Palo Alto (download the pdf)
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of an Arastradero
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula (order
this map from Amazon.com) is a good guide.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a simple
map and preserve description (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a decent map and preserve
this book from Amazon.com).
in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
an August 2002 hike
View 27 photos from the featured
hike (old routing of Woodrat Trail shown).
View 46 photos from
the featured hike (Acorn shortcut version).
View a few photos of spring
Preserve lacks the wild drama of the open
space preserves that hang off the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains a few
miles west, but it's pleasant and easy to get to, ranking with
Windy Hill, and Wunderlich
as the most convenient parks along the 280 corridor. Although most of
the trails at Arastradero are multi-use, the small size and location of
the preserve make it relatively underused by bikers, but you will probably
encounter plenty of joggers, equestrians, and dog walkers.
Several loop hikes are possible
through grassland, oak savannah, and a riparian corridor. Trails can be
dishearteningly muddy during the wettest time of year, and some trails
are closed seasonally.
Start at the trailhead and
follow the signed Gateway Trail from the parking lot. At
0.14 mile, you'll cross Arastradero Road and enter the preserve
on Juan Bautista de Anza Trail (formerly Corte Madera Trail). This broad,
multi-use trail runs along Arastradero Creek all the way to the preserve's
boundary. In spring, yellow fiddlenecks carpet the meadow near the
wooden preserve sign. At 0.25 mile, at a signed junction, Juan Bautista
de Anza Trail curves right, while Wild Rye Trail heads to the left and
uphill. Stay to the right on Juan Bautista de Anza Trail.
You may hear (and see) quail, redwing blackbirds,
and cottontail rabbits along this level stretch. Besides the ubiquitous
poison oak shrubbery, look for profligate bushes of wild roses (the red
hips are dramatic in the fall), tangled blackberry brambles, white common
snowberries, monkeyflower, elderberry, willow, coast live oak, coyote
brush, and poison hemlock. Deciduous oak trees keep their distance from
the trail. Juan Bautista de Anza Trail crosses the creek at a bridge,
then meets up with Meadowlark Trail at a signed junction at 0.38 mile. Stay
to the left on Juan Bautista de Anza Trail.
The trail climbs just a bit, then dips
down toward Arastradero Lake. In spring, you might see blue-eyed grass,
tomcat clover, bluedicks, lupines, California poppy, and California buttercup
on the sides of the trail. At 0.57 mile, at a signed junction, a bridge
veers left of the trail just before the lake. Continue straight on
Juan Bautista de Anza Trail.
Arastradero Lake is partially visible on the left.
At 0.61 mile, bear left where the trail splits at a junction
near a pump house, now
on Arastradero Creek Trail.
of this small pond is kept at arm's length by thick, healthy stands of
cattails and is closed to swimmers, but open all year for fishing. In
the fall, bird sounds drift away from the lake -- they seem to be sitting
in some invisible patch of vegetation, as I can rarely see them. Willows
flourish in this damp environment, along with monkeyflower, blackberry,
snowberry, and gooseberry.
Although Arastradero Creek Trail runs along
the creek, the water is scarcely visible, blocked by thick vegetation,
including coast live oak, willow, toyon, and buckeye.The trail climbs
a little, but is mostly level. At 1.16 miles, you'll
reach a signed junction with the Acorn Trail, which was built
in June 2000. (If you'd like to shorten your hike, turn right here, and
at the junction with Meadowlark, turn right and follow the remaining directions)
Continue on Arastradero Creek Trail.
At 1.33 miles, Arastradero Creek Trail reaches
a signed junction with Woodrat Trail. Turn
right. (Woodrat may be closed in wet conditions; if so, retrace your
steps back to Acorn Trail.)
The former route climbed sharply through
grassland, but the new trail zigzags easily uphill through poison oak,
coyote brush, coast live oak, monkeyflower, snowberry, buckeye, and California
bay. Along the shaded stretches you might notice tiny-leaved yerba buena
plants. Narrow Woodrat Trail steps out into grassland, and joins the former
trail heading uphill to the right. At 1.69 miles you'll reach a T junction
(unsigned on my last visit). Turn left.
The slight path (not shown on the map) winds
through grassland, overlooking Bowl Loop Trail at the southwest edge of
the preserve. You may be able to make
out trails at Windy Hill in the distance. At 1.84 miles you'll reach an
unsigned T junction near a massive valley oak. Turn right. (You could extend the
hike at this point, turning left onto Meadowlark, descending to Woodland
Star Trail, then returning to Meadowlark via Bay Laurel Trail.)
Meadowlark, a broad dirt road open to cyclists,
equestrians, and hikers, climbs slightly through grassland. At 1.96 miles,
you'll reach a signed junction with Vista Point Trail. Turn left.
The path passes a picnic table and a string
of olive trees, then ascends gently to a bench under a huge valley oak,
at 2.06 miles. When ready, retrace your steps back to the previous
junction, then turn left, back onto Meadowlark Trail.
A few steps down the trail you'll
reach a signed junction with Woodrat Trail. Continue straight
on Meadowlark Trail.
The trail begins a gentle descent. At 2.7
miles, there's a T junction. Continue to the right on Meadowlark Trail.
Look for wild radish and mustard along
the trail in early spring. At 2.8 miles, Acorn Trail heads downhill to
the right. Continue to the left on Meadowlark Trail.
Wonderful views to the east, as well as
of the soft rolling hills of this preserve, will unfold as you descend
on the wide trail. Wildflowers are the main attraction here in spring,
with mule ear sunflowers, fiddlenecks, and lupines shading the grass with
subtle colors, while fresh, tender oak leaves emerge on the venerable
old oaks which dot the grassland. By June the grass is usually dried out,
and a few clarkia, California poppies, and pearly everlasting provide
a contrast to the honey-colored grass and deep green leaves of the preserve's
oaks. The grass begins to green up again as early as December, and thanks
to new efforts to eradicate
non-native pest plants, the grassland at Arastradero should become even
more verdant in coming years. At 3.10 miles, Meadowlark Trail meets Juan
Bautista de Anza Trail at a signed junction. Continue straight on Meadowlark
The fire road shrinks to a footpath.
Yellow star thistle has infested the grass and creeps in for your ankles.
Look for hawks, kites, and kestrels soaring in the thermals overhead.
Pretty swaths of knee-high mustard flourish in early spring. Portola Pastures
Trail (formerly Perimeter Trail) meets Meadowlark Trail at 3.30 miles.
Turn right, following Meadowlark as it sweeps down to the right
and meets Juan Bautista de Anza Trail at a previously encountered junction
at 3.39 miles. Turn left at the junction and return to the parking
Total distance: 3.76 miles
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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