A short and easy loop through hills near Stanford, with exceptional views.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.9 mile balloon hike is easy, with minimal elevation
change, although some short stretches of trail are moderately steep. Trailhead elevation is 175 feet and the trail's highest point is 527 feet.
2 hours or less.
Nice any time.
From I280 at the southern edge of Woodside, exit Sand Hill Road. Drive east about 2 miles, then turn right onto Santa Cruz Avenue. Almost immediately, turn left onto Junipero Serra Boulevard. Drive south about 1.5 miles, then turn left onto Stanford Avenue and look for side of street parking.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
There's a bus stop on campus, less than 1 mile from the Dish.
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, gas, stores, and restaurants in surrounding towns and campus. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Limited side of street parking.
No restrooms. There is a water fountain alongside the trail near the one mile mark. There is no designated handicapped parking -- trail is wheelchair accessible but not suitable to chairs due to the steep grades. No paper maps at the trailhead.
Reserve hours vary seasonally, but in general the Dish is open from sunrise to
sunset. Dogs and bikes are not permitted.
The Official Story:
Stanford's Dish page
Map Choices/More Info:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from Stanford (zoom in to see Dish)
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Stanford University owns quite a bit of land beyond the civilized confines of their well-known campus. Much of this undeveloped property is off limits to the public, but walking is permitted at one low ridge between Junipero Serra Boulevard and I280: the Dish. The name refers to a prominent research radio telescope that dominates the hilltop.
This is not really a hiking trail; it's clearly an old ranch road that was paved for vehicle use. It is a good route for runners and not a bad walk. If you plan on trekking the Dish with a stroller, note that several sections of trail are quite steep.
A paved trail begins at the junction of Junipero Serra Boulevard and Stanford Avenue. Once inside the gate the trail (here know as Stanford Dish Hiking Trail) starts out level, but soon begins a rather sharp climb (nearly 15 percent at one spot) through grassland dotted with oaks. Blue-eyed grass and buttercups bloom in patches here in early spring, but the grassland is weedy and overrun with squirrels. At 0.2 mile, the trail reaches a small saddle and junction. You can walk the route in either direction; I like to go right here.
The trail descends slightly and edges along the backyards of houses lining Junipero Serra Boulevard. Gradually turning west, the trail runs up and down a few small hills, then rises in earnest shortly past a water fountain (out of view downhill to the right) at 0.9 mile. At 1.2 mile, the Dish Hiking Trail departs off to the right -- continue uphill to the left, now on Reservoir Road.
You'll continue to climb, passing a covered reservoir on the right, then the trail bends left and reaches the ridgeline. The Dish is visible uphill on the right, and Reservoir Road climbs, now at an easy grade, toward the structure. At 2.2 miles, a road breaks off right toward the Dish, leading to Ranch Road, a trail that drops down toward Alpine Road. Continue straight on Reservoir Road.
I call this stretch the Dish Highlands, and for the next mile the vista is extraordinary -- mostly unobstructed 360 degree views. The mostly forested Santa Cruz Mountains are prominent to the west; the bare hilltop ridge of Windy Hill is conspicuous. As Reservoir Road sweeps to the left, enjoy wonderful views of the East Bay, including Sunol's distinctive Flag Hill, Round Top (at Sibley Volcanic Preserve) and Mount Diablo. Reservoir Road begins to descend, with one steep section at 3.3 miles, offering a nice perspective of Stanford proper. At 3.7 miles you'll return to a familiar junction. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 3.9 miles
Last hiked: March 18, 2014