Getting outside has been a saving grace for my family and me during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re always left with the same question: where can we go hiking while maintaining social distance? With park closures and varying county restrictions, it’s hard to keep up with all the pandemic-related regulations. By now, we all know that in order to safely enjoy our local parks we need to continue to keep our distance from others. But it can be hard, if not impossible, to stay six feet away from other hikers if you’re on a trail that isn’t very wide.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there that allow us to safely hike amidst this pandemic. Below, you’ll find a few hikes that have wide enough trails for social distancing. But before heading out, be sure to check with the park or preserve’s managing agency for updates, and visit BayAreaOutdoors.org for additional tips on how to safely enjoy our open spaces.
Before you go:
– Hike solo or with the people you live with.
– Stay six feet away from people you do not live with.
– Plan for restrooms, drinking fountains and picnic areas being closed.
– Hike single file to maximize distance when passing others.
– Do not park in a crowded parking lot or use a crowded trail.
– Do not hold social gatherings or form groups.
– Roadside parking may be prohibited.
This wide trail follows an old jeep trail toward the summit of Windy Hill. Its width makes it easier to keep your distance from other hikers and bikers. Dogs on leash are welcome in this section of Windy Hill too, making this spot even more desirable. Note that the last section of trail leading to the summit is more narrow and, if crowded, will be more difficult to keep your distance from one another. Check Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District before you go for the latest trail information.
There are usually two parking areas that give access to the Spring Ridge Trail. One is off Portola Road and the other (which is temporarily closed) is off Skyline Blvd. The lot at Portola Road only has space for 25 vehicles which means it fills quickly on the weekends. There is overflow parking available at the Portola Valley Town Center, about 0.4 miles north on Portola Road. Please be sure not park on Portola Road: Parking here is strictly enforced.
Follow this wide trail through rolling hills and take in some spectacular views of the coast toward the end of the trail. This trail also follows a ranch road so there’s plenty of space to maintain social distance. But be prepared to hike amongst cattle as this trail runs through an active grazing operation. And, unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in this section of La Honda Creek. Check Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District before you go for the latest trail information.
Parking at Lower La Honda Creek can be found at the Sears Ranch Road parking lot off of Highway 84 in La Honda. From the lot, follow Sears Ranch Road then head right onto Harrington Creek Trail. Follow Harrington Creek Trail onto Folger Ranch Loop Trail (also six feet wide) which loops back to Harrington Creek Trail.
This whole preserve is a great option for wide trail hikes. The Alma Trail is just one of three wide trails featured here. The trail, located west of Bear Creek Road, is safely accessible using a pedestrian crossing from the parking lot. The 2.5-mile trail traverses into densely wooded fir and redwood forests, through bay and oak woodlands. From the parking lot, head right onto Alma Trail which maintains its width through the preserve. Keep right on Alma Trail until you hit Madrone Knoll Trail (also at least six feet wide) and loop back toward the lot. Bring the kids, but leave the pooch at home for this adventure. Check Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District before you go for the latest trail information.
The parking lot is located off Bear Creek Road, opposite Lexington Reservoir, from Highway 17. The lot has been filling up quickly on weekends so consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday. Unfortunately, there is no off-site parking nearby, so make sure you have a backup plan outing in case the lot is full.
If you’re an experienced hiker looking for more mileage and elevation gain while still being able to maintain social distance, look no further than Sierra Azul. The wide Woods Trail winds around the north side of Mount Umunhum, climbing near the summit of Mount El Sombroso before linking up with the Kennedy and Limekiln Trails (which are also at least six feet wide). Be prepared to catch some spectacular views of the bay. Dogs are only allowed on the west side of the preserve (check the map for more details). Also check Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District before you go for the latest trail information.
The Jacques Ridge parking area is located near the intersection of Hicks Road and Mount Umunhum Road. From there, you can access the entrance to Woods Trail. You can also park near the trailhead for Kennedy Trail (also six feet wide) located off Kennedy Road in Los Gatos, about 1.5 miles west of the intersection with Shannon Road. This trail links up with Woods Trial, but parking nearby is very limited.
In the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Clara County is the beautiful Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve. There are 12 miles of trails that offer both easy and more difficult options. The half-mile Llagas Creek Loop is great if you’re looking for an ADA-accessible paved trail. It’s perfect for strollers and wheelchairs and is wide enough to allow for proper social distancing. The Llagas Creek Loop starts just off the parking area next to Casa Loma Road. Check Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority before you go for the latest trail information.
If you’re looking for something more challenging, try Catamount Trail to Bald Peaks Trail. Both implement one-way direction hiking (visitors must travel one-way along the Longwall Canyon Trail from the Mayfair Ranch Trail junction to the Bald Peaks Trail). The trails also feature wide-open sections that cut across the hillsides and through wooded areas.
To get to the parking lot at Rancho Cañada del Oro from Highway 101 or 85, go west on Bailey Avenue, then turn left on McKean Road and right on Casa Loma Road.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 79,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more