In this third segment of a multi-segment hike from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, my hiking group hiked from Foothills Park in Palo Alto to Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. We have decided to name our adventure Edge to Edge, since we will eventually have hiked from the edge of the bay to the edge of the ocean. Unlike in San Francisco, where this distance can be covered in a couple of hours in the famous Bay to Breakers foot race, farther down the peninsula the hike is roughly 60 miles and involves several thousand vertical feet of gain and loss. We are hiking about 6 miles at a time, and we are having a great time enjoying the beautiful parks and open spaces that are so close to where we live, as well as the camaraderie of a shared adventure.
This segment was about two thirds in Foothills Park and one third in Los Trancos Open Space Preserve. The portion from the bay through Foothills Park has followed the so-called Bay-to-Ridge Trail fairly closely. The Bay-to-Ridge Trail is really more of a route through town (actually, the city of Palo Alto) than a hiking trail over much of its distance.
In the previous segment we finished at a wonderful vista point in Foothills Park, where we could appreciate how far we’d come from the edge of the Bay. This segment started at the same location, appropriately named Vista Hill, and continued to climb the peninsula hills generally toward Skyline Blvd. This segment was notable in having the greatest net elevation gain of the entire journey, about 1300 feet, plus about 300 feet of loss just at the start.
About 0.5 mile from the start, we approached Boronda Lake and stopped for a group photo on a small bridge that crosses a seasonal stream.
The lake itself is very peaceful, nestled among the hills.
We followed the Wildhorse Valley Fire Road to the Fern Loop Trail and then up the Costanoan Trail, which gained about 500 feet in a series of switchbacks. Along this climb we encountered a lizard apparently sunning itself on a stub tree branch.
At the end of the Costanoan Trail we hiked south on the Los Trancos Trail. Much of the trail was cool, shady, and moist: a perfect environment for ferns and flowers.
One of the flowers we saw is the Indian warrior – somewhat reminiscent of the snow flowers I’ve seen at higher elevation in the Sierras, though not botanically related.
There were also open grassy areas, especially as we climbed higher. At nearly 1600 feet elevation we had a great view almost due north across San Francisco Bay, with the Stanford Campus (including Hoover Tower and The Dish) in the foreground.
From some of these open areas we could also see Mt Diablo and Mt Tamalpais, though both were a bit hazy due to the weather conditions and their distance. We also had nice views along the Santa Cruz Mountains, with row after row of hills.
Near the junction with Pony Tracks Fire Road we found beautiful fields of lupine in full bloom. The color was amazing!
At the park boundary between Foothills Park and Los Trancos Open Space Preserve there was a sign indicating the upper end of the Bay-to-Ridge Trail. A short distance later we came upon a beautiful trillium beginning to bloom. Our hike leader, equipped with several wildflower books, elucidated that it was called a robin wake, most likely the large variety.
As we continued, we encountered many other types of wildflowers along the Page Mill Trail, which runs roughly parallel to Page Mill Rd. The first mile or so was relatively flat. We found a magnificent tree with very interesting branch structure.
In an otherwise shaded area there was a fern bathed in sunlight.
As the trail curved around a hillside, looking back there was a nice view showing the trail section we had just hiked. If you look closely at the lowest treetop level, Mt Tamalpais is visible nearly 45 miles away.
The last mile of the hike included another 350 feet of climbing, to reach the end of Los Trancos OSP and the main parking area for Monte Bello OSP on Page Mill Rd. In the next segment we will continue through Monte Bello and into Upper Stevens Creek County Park.