Larry Lane Trail,
Town of Portola Valley,
San Mateo County
In brief:
1.7 mile balloon hike on edge of residential neighborhood, includes loop through quiet woods.

Distance, category, and difficulty
This 1.7 mile balloon hike (an out and back with a loop at one end), is easy, with about 600 feet is elevation change.

Almost completely exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
1 hour.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit Sand Hill Road. Drive west about 3.3 miles (Sand Hill Road seamlessly turns into Portola Road along the way), then turn right onto Hayfields Road. Proceed about 0.15 mile uphill, to an unpromising-looking pullout on the right, just before Hayfields Road becomes a private lane.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3723'19.21"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phones, gas, stores, and restaurants in Portola Valley. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Parking for 2-3 vehicles in a paved pullout. No entrance or parking fees. No facilities or maps. No designated handicapped parking, and the trail is not suitable to wheelchairs.

These trails are open to hikers and equestrians. Pets on leash are permitted. This is an easement trail, so stay on the path.

The Official Story
Portola Valley's Larry Lane info (pdf)

Map & book choices/More Info:

• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the park.
Map of Portola Valley trail network (pdf)
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a simple but detailed map and park description (order this book from

Larry Lane Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

If you yanked the redwoods out of Portola Valley,Trailhead  the peninsula town would quite nicely resemble an upper-class British country village. Both have lavish estates, equestrians and horses everywhere, and a network of easement trails. The Portola Valley paths, set at least a few feet off the road, permit safe equestrian and pedestrian travel, but the town also maintains easement trails through two areas that resemble small parks: Coal Mine Ridge and Larry Lane Trail.
     Of the two, Coal Mine Ridge is more of a destination, while Larry Lane Trail, with limited parking and only one footpath, is better suited to use from walkers who live very close to its tiny trailhead. Larry Lane Trail was recommended to me by Bay Area hiker George Bosworth, who praised the trail's great views and quiet woods. Perhaps the trail is not worth a special trip, but if you live or work nearby you may want to check it out. Note that since these are easements trails, you are expected to stay on them, and not roam off trail.
     To find the trailhead, turn off Portola Road onto small but paved Hayfields Road, and drive steeply uphill to a wee pullout on the right, across from Louise Lane, and just Start of Larry Lane Trailbefore Hayfields Road becomes private. Walk uphill about 40 feet on Hayfields Road to the "private road" sign, and turn right onto a footpath. After a few feet a trail sign with mileage figures is on the left (none of which agreed with my GPS's figures). Initially, the narrow path ascends gently through a mixture of coast live oak, toyon, buckeye, and poison oak. Broom nearly crowds out the natives, but should you be hiking here in early spring when the shrubs are covered with sweet-smelling yellow blossoms, it's almost possible to admire this invasive plant. Also look for a few plum trees, which when bearing fruit, will likely attract a variety of birds and possibly even omnivorous coyotes. The trail sweeps around the edge of a small grassy meadow, then enters more dense woods, where hound's tongue and trilliums bloom in early spring. The private road is occasionally visible as the trail ascends, skirting houses. After about 0.1 mile, the trail reaches the road. Follow the path to the right on the shoulder of the road, past Larry Lane Traila driveway, and then veer off to the right, continuing uphill past a bench, through dense hedges of broom and back into woods. After a few short switchbacks, Larry Lane Trail crosses a tiny creek where planted redwoods thrive. Good bird watching here in the thickets of vegetation on both sides of the trail -- look for wrens and spotted towhees. At about 0.25 mile, the trail crosses the paved road. Still climbing at an easy pace, Larry Lane Trail straightens out along a fence, on the right. Vinca, a non-native ground cover with purple flowers, sprawls on the left side of the trail. Just after the trail crosses a gravel driveway, there's a sign about Lane (the founder of Sunset Magazine), the dedication of the trail, and a redwood with a rough looking fort nestled in its branches. A few houses are just off the trail to the left. Next, Larry Lane Trail makes a rare passage through grassland dotted with coyote brush, where blue-eyed grass may be spotted blooming in early spring. Soon you'll return to the woods where Larry Lane Trailpretty buckeyes and coast live oaks shadow creambush and snowberry. Look for honeysuckle and clematis here, two vines which drape across or dangle from other vegetation. At 0.50 mile, you'll reach a signed junction, and the beginning of the loop. Bear right.
     Two picnic tables on the right under coast live oaks are inviting spots for lunch. Past this rest area, the trail continues an easy ascent through coast live oak, toyon, and coyote brush. Just before a footbridge, a pocket of willows hosted a swarm of chestnut-backed chickadees on a mid-March hike. As the trail sweeps past a water tank, views open up on the right, extending east. This is the Hayfields View, about 580 feet higher in elevation than the trailhead. A few eucalyptus stand off to the right, near a gate for equestrians to enter a private ranch. In a shaded section of woods, trailside scenery is dominated by a large coast live oak. A bench on the right makes a nice rest Bench near creek crossingstop, where you may be inspected by scrub jays, the volunteer police force of the forest. A bit past the bench, the trail begins to descend on switchbacks. At about 1.00 mile, a path slips off to the right at an unsigned junction. Continue to the left.
     Here, in a forest of madrone, coast live oak, and buckeye, I saw some pretty displays of wildflowers on a March hike, including milkmaids, hound's tongue, columbine, and trilliums. Away from development, this is the quietest part of the trail. At a steady but easy descent, Larry Lane Trail drops on a slim ridge, accompanying the downhill progress of a creek to the left. The trail crosses the creek, and then at 1.20 miles, the loop ends. Bear right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1.70 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, March 17, 2005