I discovered hiking when I was a young adult. As a child, my parents brought us to hiking spots when we were young, but we never really hiked, we just strolled along and stayed close to the parking lot. Only later when my sister brought me hiking in the Adirondacks in upstate NY did I really fall in love with hiking.
After that I became an avid hiker. I even worked for a recreational equipment company where I could talk about climbing and hiking all day long. I met my husband because I was looking for a climbing and hiking buddy.
Ever since I became a mother my love of hiking has been put on hold. It’s a lot more complicated to leave home for a full day when you are sleep deprived and your baby has to follow feeding and nap schedules.
Now that my son has passed the 1 year old mark, I start venturing out a little bit more. It is still a lot of organization but I discover it is worth it. It gives me a break while he’s in the backpack, and I also found out he really really REALLY loves the outdoors. Great! We live in the peninsula, and I try to venture not to far out so we can get back home before we hit traffic. Here are my top spots to go hiking or running, or just get a nice day out.
1 – Shoreline at Mountain View Park
3070 North Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, CA 94043
I love love love this place! It’s about a 5 minute car-ride away from our home, and has the best running trails in the area. Most trails are paved, which means you can put the baby in the jogging stroller and get a workout more easily than most other spots listed here. My son loves to watch the geese quack around. There’s quite a lot of wildlife there for a place that is so close to Google’s Headquarters. So far I’ve seen geese, all kinds of birds, ravens, snakes and jackrabbits. You can’t really “hike” there as it’s mostly flat, but you get nice views of the bay. It also has a playground disguised as a pirate ship for older kids, a kite flying area, a golf and restaurants and there’s plenty of space to drop a blanket for a nice picnic.
2 – Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
22500 Cristo Rey Dr, Los Altos, CA 94022
My new favorite place is this open space preserve. Access is free and during the week there is plenty of parking space available. There’s a great picnic area close to the main parking, and another parking not too far for horses (you can go horse riding there if you have your own horse).
About a mile down from the parking lot you’ll find the Deer Hollow Farm which is just amazing. My son loves to go to the farm and meet the animals, so much so that it has become a weekly occurrence for us to go there. There are several hikes you can do, some flat and others not so flat. There’s a great viewpoint that you can access from a few trails, with views of the bay and the surrounding cities. On a clear day, you get stunning views of the East Bay Mountains.
The road to the farm is paved and there are a few trails where you can bring your stroller, but to get to the view point I recommend a baby carrier. Otherwise you might huff and puff trying to get the stroller up.
I recently started hitting new trails and going further into the park, and I must admit I’m surprised that such a great place exists so close to Silicon Valley.
Weekends there are jam-packed, so if you can, visit during the week to avoid crowds. It’s also a well-known trail running spot for locals.
3 – Los Trancos Open Space Preserve
Palo Alto, CA 94022
While searching for new places to hike I stumbled upon Foothills Park, but learned that it was accessible only to Palo Alto residents (which I am not). While looking for an alternative place I found this park and decided to give it a try. It turns out it was a very pleasant surprise! Baby carrier only, free parking. There are a few entrances but the main parking has maps. The park is quite small, but it’s plenty large for a family looking for a 2-hour hike. If you are looking for a longer adventure, you can cross the street and hike in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, which is just as nice.
The wildlife is impressive, we actually saw a coyote on our first visit there. Bonus: it is not crowded at all! During week-ends you’ll see about a dozen cars in the parking lot.
4 – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
101 N Big Trees Park Rd, Felton, CA 95018
Another beautiful spot for hiking, this one has great amenities and is obviously crowded during the week-ends. There’s and entrance fee of 10$. You can park outside and walk about 1 mile to avoid that fee but since it is a State Park I believe we should pay the fee to keep this place open. They have a campground, which is where we did our first camping trip as a family. This park features a gorgeous redwood trail where you can admire those giants. It also bolts a few other trails which are quite nice. You can hike to a great viewpoint with stunning views up to Santa Cruz and the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.
5 – Alum Rock Park
15350 Penitencia Creek Rd, San Jose, CA 95127
I haven’t been there in a while, but used to go there fairly often. The trails are nice, there are a lot great picnic spots. It is crowded during the weekends so you might have to park outside the designated parking area. It gets fairly hot during the summer, so this place is better visited during the spring or late fall.
6 – San Bruno Mountain County Park
555 Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, Brisbane, CA 94005
This was a favorite place when I was pregnant and now that I’m writing about it I wonder why I don’t go there more often. There’s a parking fee of 5$ and you can find restrooms and a nice picnic area close to the main parking. The hiking there is great, and the trails are well maintained. You can do shorter or longer hikes, depending (we once did the PG & E trail where we decided to turn around before reaching the end as the trail took more time than anticipated) and if you choose a summit trail you can get great views of the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Tamalpais and even Mt. Diablo on a clear day.
Bonus: you can pick blackberries for free if you show up at the right time of the year as the bushes are plentiful and close to the trail.