Peninsula Open Space Trust

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.
– Restrooms at MidPeninsula Regional Open Space preserves are now open.
– Drinking fountains and picnic areas may be closed.
– Hike single file to maximize distance when passing others.
– If a parking lot is full, go elsewhere as trails will likely be crowded.
– Do not hold social gatherings or form groups.
– Roadside parking may be prohibited.

Windy Hill: Spring Ridge Trail
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.

La Honda Creek: Harrington Creek Trail
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.

Bear Creek Redwoods: Alma 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.

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve: Woods Trail
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.

Rancho Cañada del Oro: Llagas Creek Loop
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.

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.

Editor’s note: On June 8, more San Mateo Parks opened, including Devil’s Slide Trail, and parking lots at San Bruno Mountain and San Pedro Valley Park. See full list of open areas online.

Author Nik Rau is a marketing assistant at Peninsula Open Space Trust.

Photo credits: Poppies on Windy Hill by Frances Freyberg (c) 2020; photo of cow at La Honda Creek courtesy of MidPeninsula Open Space District

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