Hike, bike, run and explore the Peninsula — and maybe pick up some free swag along the way

A bicyclist rides on the trails during sunset at the Enid W. Pearson Arastradero Preserve. (Photo by Veronica Weber)

Even in the best of years, it’s widely acknowledged that New Year’s resolutions, especially those focused on fitness, are hard to keep. Many resolutions last no longer than a few weeks.

So with gyms shut down right now, the pandemic surging and winter blues in full swing, the thought of setting and sticking to any new fitness goals right now might feel exhausting, not inspiring.

In response, we’ve pulled together a few ideas offered by local resources to boost your health and encourage you to get some fresh air, all without having to step inside a gym.

Complete the #PixinParks or “Take a Hike” hiking challenges.

To encourage folks to get outside, parks departments in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are offering free swag to people who participate in a series of hikes and collect photographic proof of their adventures.

Santa Clara County Parks has launched its annual Pix in Parks challenge for 2021, which invites people to participate in seven different hikes throughout Santa Clara County before Dec. 15. Complete all seven hikes, and send or tag a photo from a specific destination point on each of those hikes, and the department will send you a free t-shirt or bandana.

The hikes this year are at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch (3.5 miles), Joseph D. Grant County Park (2.1 miles), Rancho San Antonio (3.4 miles), Mt. Madonna County Park (1.5 miles), Lexington Reservoir County Park (1.8 miles), Hellyer County Park (6 miles) and Calero County Park (3.2 miles). Most of the parks permit dogs, but people may substitute a visit to a dog park to complete the challenge as well. Alternative routes for those seeking ADA options are also available. Learn more here.

Edgewood Park in San Mateo County is one of the parks featured in the county’s “Take a Hike” challenge this year. (Embarcadero Media File Photo)

San Mateo County is also currently running its “Take a Hike” challenge, which includes seven hikes. The deadline to complete the challenge is March 31. Participants who complete four hikes receive a pair of sunglasses and camp mug, and those who complete all seven receive those items and a picnic blanket.

These routes include San Bruno Mountain (2.7 miles), Sawyer Camp Trail (5 miles), Edgewood Park (3.3 miles), Pillar Point Bluff (5 miles), Wunderlich Park (3.3 miles), Quarry Park (2 miles), and Junipero Serra Park (1.8 miles). Learn more here.

Exercise for the environment

The Sierra Club is currently running a virtual “1.5 Challenge,” calling on participants to, every day, exercise for 15 minutes or complete a 1.5 mile walk, jog, bike ride or other movement between Jan. 11 and Feb. 12. The challenge is focused around the “1.5” number because of the science indicating that the planet’s temperature rise needs to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius — or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — from pre industrial levels to prevent the worst predicted impacts of global warming. Registration is $35, but people may sign up to fundraise more. Learn more here.

Explore a new trail and earn free postcards.

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is offering free artistic postcards to people who take and share photos when they visit the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto, located at the bayside terminus of Bay Road. A 0.6-mile trail segment in the preserve was recently completed, linking 80 miles of the Bay Trail throughout the region. Learn more here.

(Image via OpenSpace.org)

Bring the gym home.

The city of Palo Alto is offering group exercise classes for adults via Zoom. The program, called Boost!, offers 10 class credits that those under 60 can purchase for $75 and older individuals can purchase for $65, to use any time over the course of a year. Classes include aerobics, pilates, yoga, total body conditioning, barre, Zumba and an outdoors in-person exercise class held at the Mitchell Park Community Center courtyard. Learn more here.

Many other cities are also offering limited fitness classes, most of which are online. Check your local recreation department for more.

Start your year off with a 5K resolution run, walk or ride.

The city of Mountain View is hosting a virtual resolution 5K with recommended routes, a photo scavenger hunt and finalist medal. Registration costs $25 and medals will be available for curbside pickup in February.

Register here.

Find a new favorite bike route.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has curated a collection of popular bike routes from Burlingame to Morgan Hill. Many routes are along the Bay and don’t require much hill climbing.

A cyclist rides along Newell Road past golden-colored trees lined along Greenwood Avenue in Palo Alto. (Photo by Veronica Weber.)

Become a neighborhood naturalist.

This winter, the Santa Clara County parks department is offering a beginner’s natural history class via Zoom, inviting speakers and scientists to teach participants about the geology, native plants and common wildlife of the region. The class is offered on three Wednesday evenings in late January and February. Participants are expected to complete homework assignments, including a four-hour service project. Registration is limited, but the program is offered throughout the year. Learn more here.

There are also plenty of tools available to learn about your surroundings on your own. I’ve been having fun learning about the plants in my neighborhood through the “Seek by iNaturalist” app, which can identify plants and animals in many cases down to the species level.

The hills of Pearson-Arastradero Preserve are verdant in the spring. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw)

Celebrate the seasons with a new hike each month.

The Peninsula Open Space Trust recently released a curated calendar offering hiking suggestions tailored to each month. For instance, a waterfall hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains is set for February when the odds of rainfall are best, while the wildflower-rich meadows of Pearson-Arastradero Preserve are reserved for April.

Download the calendar here. Be sure to check the website of your destination before you go, though. A number of area parks are shut down due to fire damage, while others have restrictions due to the pandemic.

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Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw reports food news and feature stories all over the Peninsula, from south of San Francisco to north of San José. Since she began working with Embarcadero Media in 2015, she's reported on everything from Menlo Park's City Hall politics to Mountain View's education system. She has won awards from the California News Publishers Association for her coverage of local government, elections and land use reporting.

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