Panoramic views, kite flyingHIGHLIGHTS: Windy Hill is one of the San Francisco Peninsula’s most distinctive landmarks, a beautiful undeveloped highpoint that provides excellent views of the Bay Area. This 1,355-acre preserve encompasses the hill and surrounding grasslands, oak savannas and mixed hardwood and redwood forest. Because of its relatively low elevation and unique exposure, Windy Hill receives more coastal influence than some of the peninsula’s higher peaks. Fog often envelopes the hill and its environs, resulting in particularly lush vegetation. That same marine moisture makes the preserve an especially good destination during the summer, providing a cool, fog-enshrouded refuge from the torrid heat that can bake much of the peninsula from June through September.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, picnicking and enjoying the views are the primary activities. As its name attests, Windy Hill is often subject to brisk breezes; kite-flying is popular. Remote control gliding and hang gliding are allowed with a special permit. Visit the Midpen permit page for details.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: Windy Hill has 12.2 miles of trails. Most of the access is via single track, not fire roads, making for pleasant hiking. The 9.9-mile Razorback and Spring Ridge Loop is the preserve’s premier route, traversing heavily wooded hillsides and grasslands, ultimately ascending the hill for a superb view of the surrounding landscape.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The vistas are Windy Hill’s primary draw; they’re especially dramatic in spring after a wet winter, when the wildflower displays are positively riotous. The Herb Grench Overlook (named after the Midpeninsula Open Space District’s first manager), is located off the Anniversary Trail at the western margin of the preserve, and provides a fine 360-degree of view of the peninsula.
HIDDEN GEM: A grove of old-growth Douglas firs is situated on the Hamms Gulch Trail just below its intersection with the Lost Gulch Trail. These magnificent ancient trees are a surviving remnant of the great forests of giant firs and redwoods that once blanketed the peninsula.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Next to the parking area at the upper end of the preserve, three wheelchair-accessible picnic tables offer beautiful views overlooking Portola Valley. There is a wheelchair-accessible restroom, however the trails leading out from the picnic area are not wheelchair accessible.
DOGS: Allowed on-leash on all trails, except for the Lost and Razorback Trails.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Visit the Midpen district’s activities page.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit the preserve’s webpage or call 650-691-1200.
PLACES TO EAT: Parkside Grille offers California comfort food among the redwoods. Alpine Inn is a popular spot with an outdoor picnic area offering beer and burgers. Alice’s Restaurant, named after the famous Arlo Guthrie song, serves great burgers, barbecue and more.
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