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The Top 5 Running Routes Near Palo Alto / San Jose

 Sunnyvale, in the suburbs of San Jose, was our home for about a year. Perfect weather, breathtaking sunsets, wonderful people, trails of your dreams... housing prices of your nightmares. We liked to say we were long-term tourists. It wasn't't feasible to *actually* live there, so we planned to soak up every golden, sunbaked, perfectly-pleasant-weather hour we had. Here are the trails we loved while doing just that: 


Best For a Shakeout 

Huddart Park

Huddart Park: Crystal Springs to Dean Trail Loop weaves you through the peaceful Redwood canopy. It offers gentle rolling hills, perfect for shaking out after a full day's travel. Fair warning though, the trail signs can be a bit unclear. As you run from the main trail head, keep right to stay on Crystal Springs Trail. At ~2.5 miles, Dean Trail will be to the left and will return you to the start. Those looking for a little more should choose Crystal Springs to Lonely Trail Loop; ignore the outdated mudslide sign!


Local Tip: Parking is $8, though some choose to park off highway 35, where a small 3-4 car pull off area is located. 


Distance: Crystal Springs to Dean: 4.7 miles, loop // to Lonely Loop: 8.8 miles

Terrain: Gravel/Dirt // Good Footing

Elevation gain: Crystal Springs to Dean: 866ft // to Lonely Loop: 1683ft



Best For a Long Run 

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

Rancho: I am quite partial to this open space gem. It has everything, fire roads, double track, single track, flats, legit climbing, and an active farm with baby goats and giant piggies. Not to mention minimally technical terrain and beautiful views. Rancho offers a plethora of trails so I'm adding a few of my favorite routes, mix and match to your long run delight! Note: if you are in search of a breathtaking inversion, run these routes at sunrise! 


First timer? Head toward Deer Hallow Farm and follow the fire road past the gait and straight on Rogue Valley Trail. Climb the mile long hill on the Upper Rogue Valley Trail for a BEAUTIFUL, expansive view of the Silicon Valley. Then take the Wildcat Loop Trail for nice shade on the descent. If you want a hard, consistent climb try the PG&E Trail. 4 miles up, 4 miles down. Sweat-fest. For some extra mileage, a single track connector to Black Mountain Summit is to the left at the top of PG&E. 


Local Tip: I'm not the only one to discover Rancho, local hikers flock to it in droves, especially on weekends. Parking can be difficult but a newly constructed parking lot is helping to resolve this issue. 


Distance: Wildcat Loop Trail: 7.5 miles, lollipop // PG&E: 8 miles, out and back // to Black Mountain: 11.5 miles, out and back 

Terrain: Dirt // Double and single track, fire roads 

Elevation gain: Wildcat Loop Trail: 813ft // PG&E: 1434ft // to Black Mountain: 2678ft 


Best For a Workout

Stanford Dish Trail and Track


Stanford Dish Trail and Track: This is a perfect trail-track combo. Park at the Stanford track and warm up around the dish before hitting the track for some speedier training. For a cool down, I would suggest running around the quad to take in the architecture and possibly jump in a game of Quidditch. Fun fact: the "dish" was so-named for the 150 ft radio telescope that sits on the premises. It was built in 1961 and at one time transmitted signals to the Voyager, a craft sent to the outer reaches of our solar system by NASA. 


Local Tip: Unless there is an event, parking outside the track is easy and only $1.50 an hour, M-F, 8:00am to 4:00pm. 


Distance: Dish Trail: 3.7 miles // from the track: 5 miles 

Terrain: Paved // Good footing

Elevation gain: 479 ft


Best For an Adventure 

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

Windy Hill: Razorback Ridge/Hamm Gulch Loop at Windy Hill provides a gorgeous run through the forest plus panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley. Bonus: its close to the city, but you won't see as many people. Enjoy some solo miles to refuel the soul!


Distance: 8.1 miles

Terrain: Dirt // Single and double track 

Elevation gain: 1959 ft


Best Views 

Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park 

Wilder Ranch: You run on the ocean cliffs. Ocean. Cliffs. No additional comment needed. 

Distance: 34 miles of winding trail, side trails leading to the ocean

Terrain: Dirt // Double and single track // Good footing

Elevation gain: minimal at best


Local tip: free parking is located on the left hand side of the road, right before you reach the park entrance. Once there, climb the small embankment and take the single track a quarter of a mile toward the small building in the distance. This houses a bathroom and the main trail connects here. Otherwise, its $10 at the main parking lot. 



With that, installment number 2 of The Traveling Runner is complete. Cheers to beautiful trails in some of the best weather in the States!





My goal is to create an archive of the top 5 trails and running routes across the United States so that no one will ever have to wonder where to run while traveling again. Want to make a location request? Drop it in the comments and I'll add it to the list! 

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