Lindsay Dillon - POST
By Lindsay Dillon,
GIS Manager

Palo Alto to the Pacific

Distance: Approximately 48 miles one way and includes two nights of camping.

Elevation change: Gained 10,500 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

Hiking time: Appx. 23 hours of hiking (assuming roughly a 30-minute mile pace) and two nights of camping.

Season: Summer is best (campsites are open roughly April to November)


The Bay Area provides a wonderful variety of landscapes, protected by so many incredible organizations who have been working in the area for decades.

Appreciating the deliberate foresight of those who fought to preserve the Peninsula, I decided to walk from my hometown of Palo Alto all the way to the ocean, taking advantage of the incredible network of protected lands and the trails that wind through them.

This trail route crosses through three counties, and ten different preserves. These preserves represent almost 41,000 acres of protected land and are considered some of the Bay Area’s rarest gems. Follow along on our epic two-night cross-Peninsula adventure and find the information you need to do this trip on your own:

Day 1:

 Pearson–Arastradero Preserve

Follow the trail along Arastradero Creek. Just past Sobey Pond, you’ll begin to feel the upslope carry you westward toward the Bay-to-Ridge Trail. You will access Foothills Park at gate D. A plethora of wildlife call this preserve home. Be careful where you step as rattlesnakes are known for sunning themselves on these slopes.


Foothills Park - POST

Foothills Park 

Enter the park through gate D and follow the road down to the Interpretive Center. Fill up your water bottles and take this opportunity to use the restroom. Continue south through the Las Trampas Valley towards the Wildhorse Valley and Towle Campground.

At the end of the fire road, begin the serious ascent of the Costanoa Trail to the well-loved Los Trancos Trail (designated as part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail). Here you’ll get your first glimpses of the Bay sparkling below and can hear cars whiz through the turns on nearby Page Mill Road.

Los Trancos Open Space Preserve

Cross into Los Trancos Open Space Preserve and onto the Page Mill Trail to begin hugging the contours of the hillside whose slope drains into the Los Trancos Creek basin. Keep your eyes peeled for juvenile mountain lions, they’ve been spotted by neighbors in this particular drainage.

After about 2.5 miles you’ll pop out right on Page Mill Road, where you will cross the street into Monte Bello’s gate 3.

Los Trancos Open Space Preserve - POST

Montebello Preserve - POST

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

Black Mountain was a regular sight from my childhood home and a spot my family frequented. It’s a great place to camp. You’ll enter Monte Bello on the Canyon Trail. After passing by the historic orchard and Sag Pond, you’ll pick up the Bella Vista Trail for the last climb to the Black Mountain Trail Camp at the top. This is where we camped our first night. Take advantage of the campground having water (non-potable so you’ll need a filter), a vault toilet with hand sanitizer and cement rounds to prepare your meals.

Click here to see part 2 of this story!

  • Angela

    Great post so far, but the “click here to read the rest of the story” justvlinks back to part 1 again. Would love to read part 2!!

  • Alisa Kim

    I love this!! Have been thinking about backpacking some of these trails, since I work at a few of the parks! Might be good to note that people shouldn’t leave their car at the Arastradero parking lot when they do this, as the rangers close the gates every night and it could lead to a ticket from what I understand!

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Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

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