As temperatures rise, venture to shady, woodsy and oceanside trails to beat the heat.
To help beat the heat this summer, we’ve compiled a list of Peninsula trails to keep cool, from shady spots with redwood canopies to breezy oceanside locations nestled in fog. Whether you’re hiking, running, biking, horseback riding or camping, these trails have you covered.
Huddart Park, Woodside
Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains 3 1/2 miles west of Highway 84, Huddart Park’s trails run through redwoods, oaks and Douglas firs. The park’s shady canyons make it a popular spot, especially in the summer months. Established by lumberman and Woodside resident James M. Huddart to benefit local children, the 24 miles of trails remain very kid-friendly. Huddart Park has a camping area, a playground, barbecue pits, and drop-in and reservable picnic tables. Cyclists are allowed on paved roadways and horses on designated trails.
Huddart Park, 1100 Kings Mountain Road, Woodside. There is a $6 parking fee.
Sanborn County Park, Saratoga
Sanborn County Park has a forest canopy of Douglas fir, redwood, madrone, tanoak and big leaf maple trees that provide a refuge from the heat. Located along Skyline Boulevard, trails lead to panoramic views of the Peninsula foothills. The Bay Area Ridge Trail runs through the lushly wooded 3,453-acre park and is a draw for mountain bikers. In the summer, it is home to the only outdoor Shakespearean company in Silicon Valley; “King Lear” begins its run July 28. Sanborn County Park also has areas for RV and hike-in camping and picnicking.
Sanborn County Park, 16055 Sanborn Road, Saratoga. There is a $6 parking fee.
Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, Half Moon Bay and Woodside
At the 5,412-acre Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, shady trails with forested canopies run parallel to a creek. Most of the redwoods are second-growth redwoods, meaning that they are around 100 years old, as opposed to old-growth redwoods that grew to be around 1,000 years old but were cut down to build up San Francisco and Half Moon Bay in the early 1900s. The sawmills that broke down these old-growth redwoods are marked by the cleared areas around the preserve, and stumps from the old-growth redwoods remain along the trail. But you can still hike up to a remaining old-growth, gnarly redwood and observe coastal views of Half Moon Bay. During wildflower season, colorful greenery lines the trails. Access is currently limited to three trails due to storm damage: the Grabtown Gulch Trail/Borden Hatch Mill Trail Loop, a more remote 5-mile loop accessed through Tunitas Creek Road or the Purisima Creek Road parking lot; Purisima Creek Trail, an old logging road along the creek with oceanside views, redwood groves and open meadows; and Redwood Trail, an accessible trail that is a 0.25-mile flat meander through tall redwoods. Due to storm damage, equestrian use is no longer allowed in the preserve.
Shorter shady trails
A smaller preserve with a 17.5 acre off-leash dog area, Pulgas Ridge Preserve is perfect for furry friends, with shady trails to help keep dogs from overheating. Because the 366-acre preserve’s gently sloping trails on the oak-covered hillside reach the summit in less than 2 miles, the location is also very family-friendly. The 0.8-mile Cordilleras Trail at the front of the preserve is designed to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers, while the more strenuous 2-mile Dusky-footed Woodrat Trail spans the entire northern part of the preserve and is dotted with wildflowers in the spring. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District purchased the preserve, formerly the site of a tuberculosis sanitarium owned by the city of San Francisco, in 1983.
Pulgas Ridge Preserve, 167 Edmonds Road, Redwood City. Free parking is available at a lot at the trailhead on Edmonds Road. Parking is not permitted along Edmonds Road at this time.
Windy Hill Preserve, Portola Valley
Although the climb up is a mix of exposed, wider ridges and shady, forested pathways of redwood, fir and oak trees, Windy Hill, like its name, can get chilly at the top, so bring a sweater. Its distinctive, breezy hilltop with panoramic views of the entire Bay Area, from Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County and Hoover Tower at Stanford to San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, make the spot worth the ascent. Dogs are allowed on-leash at the 1,414-acre preserve, and cyclists and horses are permitted on designated trails. Windy Hill is also a paragliding and hang-gliding spot. Trails include the 0.6-mile Anniversary Trail, the 1.6-mile Sausal Pond Loop and the 7.2-mile Windy Hill Loop.
Coal Mine Ridge Nature Preserve, Portola Valley
Adjacent to Windy Hill, Coal Mine Ridge is more secluded, with hidden, family-friendly swings nestled in the redwoods. The ridge has a gentle grade and it’s not a strenuous climb, with trails ranging from 1 1/2 miles to about 3 miles. Surrounding landscape includes oak trees that are more than 100 years old, as well as seasonal ferns, grasses and wildflowers. The preserve is maintained by the town of Portola Valley, with trails that provide ideal amounts of shade. The ridge was once home to the Indigenous Muwekma Ohlone people and was named for the 19th century search for minerals at the site.
Coal Mine Ridge Nature Preserve, Alpine Road Trailhead, 4860 Alpine Road, Portola Valley. Free parking is available along Alpine Road.
Byrne Preserve, Los Altos Hills
Take your dog with you to tree-filled Byrne Preserve, a location perfect for a short family hike on a hot day. Sloping, exposed foothills provide panoramic views of the surrounding mountains in Rancho San Antonio County Park. Horses from Westwind Community Barn, located on-site, graze and roam freely in the sunnier area. Behind the foothills lie wider, shady trails with gentle grades that run parallel to Moody Creek, connecting to Moody Road and other Los Altos Hills pathways.
Byrne Preserve, 27210 Altamont Road, Los Altos Hills. Free parking is available at a 13-space lot, and if spots fill up, overflow parking is also available on Altamont Road.
Picchetti Ranch Preserve, Cupertino
Home to the historic Picchetti Winery, the 308-acre Picchetti Ranch Preserve has about 4 miles of trails through forested canyons of madrone, coast live oak and California bay laurel. On a clear day, spot Mount Umunhum to the south through a break in the trees. Picnic and go wine tasting before heading out on a shaded stroll past orchards, a creek and a pond (if they haven’t dried up). For a longer route, venture into neighboring Stevens Creek County Park on the 1.9-mile Zinfandel Trail, an easy trail that cuts through a forest lush with ferns. Horses are allowed on designated trails, but dogs and cyclists aren’t permitted.
Picchetti Ranch, 13100 Montebello Road, Cupertino. Free parking is available in a lot at the base of the preserve, 1/2 mile off Foothill Boulevard/Stevens Canyon Road on Montebello Road.
Mori Point, Pacifica
Steep and short with beautiful ocean views, Pacifica’s wind will keep you cool as you hike up Mori Point, a 110-acre park that’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. An Italian immigrant, Stefano Mori, purchased 19 acres of farmland in 1888, establishing a family-operated inn and restaurant on-site. During World War II, Mori Point was a site of gravel and sand extraction, and combined with off-road vehicle use and quarrying, the surrounding landscape became scarred. In 2000, Mori Point was purchased by the Trust for Public Land and added to the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Some routes are rockier with loose ground, while others are smoother. Most trails at Mori Point are less than a mile, with the longest, the moderately strenuous Mori Point Peak Loop Trail, clocking in at 1.41 miles. Mori Point is also an ideal spot for whale watching and spring wildflowers.
Mori Point, Mori Point Road and Bradford Way, Pacifica. Free parking is available on Mori Point Road or Bradford Way.
Cowell-Purisima Trail, Half Moon Bay
While the rest of the Peninsula endures hot days, Half Moon Bay’s oceanside location keeps its weather pleasant year-round. Just south of downtown Half Moon Bay off Highway 1, the Cowell-Purisima Trail is a 3.6-mile dirt trail that is wide and mostly flat, with panoramic views of bluffs overlooking the ocean and surrounding wildflowers that linger in the summer. The trail also has a bucolic feel as it follows farmland; the property the trail is on was once a ranch owned by Henry Cowell, a successful 19th century businessman who owned ranch lands throughout California. The north side of Purisima Creek about halfway through the trail was the site of an Ohlone village that may have existed for up to 10,000 years, according to San Mateo County Parks. Cowell Ranch State Beach is accessible from a stairway a half-mile from the northern parking lot. (All other beach access from the trail is prohibited to protect wildlife.) The trail is family-friendly and bike-friendly.
Cowell-Purisima Trail, 18501 Cabrillo Highway South, Half Moon Bay. Free parking is available at both the northern and southern trailheads just off Highway 1.
Mussel Rock Trail, Daly City
Mussel Rock Trail in Daly City is about 15 miles south of San Francisco and is a 0.6-mile, mostly flat trail above the beach with oceanside views throughout. It’s also known as a popular spot for paragliding. Walking along the water is more difficult below the trail because it is rocky with little sand exposed, but the north end of the park is sandy. If you follow the sand at the north side, you can reach Thornton State Beach and then Fort Funston, the dog-friendly beach in San Francisco, 5 miles down. Mussel Rock is also open to dogs.
Mussel Rock Trail, Skyline Drive and Westline Drive, Daly City. Free parking is available at the end of Westline Drive. From the parking area, walk north into the park and then follow trails descending the hillside onto the rocky beach below.