Byrne Preserve Exploration

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The intent for this exploratory hike was to see if I could figure out the (presumably unmarked) route for the Town of Los Altos Hills 10k Pathways Run/Walk.  Since I was doing this exploration roughly 6 months from the annual event, I did not expect that the route would be marked, unless it followed an obvious permanent route – and it doesn’t.  As it turned out I never found about half of the route.  I still wanted to hike 5-6 miles, so I ended up doing two loops with substantial overlap.  The start/end location was in Byrne Preserve, a small but pretty town-owned open space area.  Many of the streets in Los Altos Hills have pathways next to them, making for almost endless hiking/walking opportunities in a beautiful setting.

The preserve is located on Altamont Rd about a half mile from Page Mill Rd in the foothills above Los Altos and Palo Alto, not far from Arastradero Preserve, Foothills Park, and Rancho San Antonio Open Space.  My start/end point was at a small staging/parking area along Altamont Rd, near the top of the GPS track.

GPS track

GPS track

This part of the preserve is an open, grassy hilltop with higher foothills to the west.  I first followed Altamont Rd around a curve to the southeast, taking an obvious walking path to loop around nearby houses.  The path continues down a wooded arroyo, quickly descending about 200 feet.  It is hard to believe that this seemingly-remote woodsy area is right next to residences.  About 1 mile from the start, at a bridge crossing a seasonal stream, there were several alternative paths.  Continuing to try to determine the Pathways Run route, the first path I followed led a paved road, which I followed for a short distance.  When it became non-obvious where the Run route went, I decided to return to the bridge and try another path, which doubled back on the other side of the arroyo before climbing out and following Central Drive.  The Pathways Run route follows Central Drive uphill and out to Page Mill Rd at about 2.1 miles from the start and the highest point of the route.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

I then followed Page Mill Rd to Altamont and returned to the start.  I had only covered about 2.8 miles at that point, so I decided to improvise a second loop by following a path leading across the open hill at the top of the preserve.  I actually didn’t know where this was going to lead, but it went back down the arroyo to the bridge.  I decided to simply retrace the second part of my first loop, since it was a very pleasant walk.

For some reason I didn’t have my camera with me.  However, a few days earlier I’d been scouting other pathways in Los Altos Hills – with my camera – and was startled to come across a small vineyard on a hillside.

image of small vineyard in fall colors

Small vineyard in fall colors

This is just an example of the beautiful and sometimes unexpected discoveries along the many walking paths.  I look forward to return for more explorations.

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