Access: No pass required; paved road to trailhead, limited trailhead parking
Windy Hill is one of the many open space preserves along the Peninsula in the California's Bay Area. The meadows high on the hill provide sweeping views of the Bay, the Peninsula, and the Pacific; come during spring for the hillside blooms of California poppies. This is an enjoyable hike in Silicon Valley's backyard that makes for a pleasant half-day out.
A friend of mine at Stanford recommended the hike when I visited him in Palo Alto, so we decided to head to the open space preserve and check it out on a clear weekday morning in April. From the Stanford campus, we took Juniperro Serra Drive west to its terminus at Alpine Road, then turned left onto Alpine Road and followed it south past I-280 and the junction with Portola Road. Near the junction with Willowbrook Road, as the road narrowed and just before it wound its way into ravine, we parked on the side of the road and walked a short distance along the road to a gate that marked the start of the hike. If there's no room to park at the trailhead I've described, I've read that there's more ample parking from the access point for the preserve on Portola Road.
We followed the fire road a fifth of a mile into the park, crossing a stream along a way, to its junction with the Meadow Trail, then turned right to follow the Meadow Trail uphill. The aptly named Meadow Trail meandered through a mixture of oak forest and open fields while steadily working its way uphill to the junction with the Spring Ridge Trail. At that junction, we began following the wide Spring Ridge Trail uphill into the open meadows of Windy Hill.
The Spring Ridge Trail was full of beautiful surprises. The trail made its way uphill through green, grassy meadows with the two peaks of Windy Hill itself in full view up ahead. After rounding one corner on the trail, we noticed a herd of deer grazing on the meadows on a hillslope across a small gully.
|Deer on Windy Hill|
|Spring Ridge Trail|
The summit featured a 360-degree view of the South Bay, Mount Diablo across the Bay, the Stanford campus, the Pacific, and the backbone of the Santa Cruz Mountains running down the peninsula. We could see Skyline Boulevard's winding route as it made its way along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The open hillsides dotted with occasional forest were verdant in the spring, though it was only a matter of time before they turned yellow and brown for the summer.
|Pacific Ocean from Windy Hill|
|South Bay view|
|Hamms Gulch Trail|
|Windy Hill from Hamms Gulch Trail|
|Redwoods on Hamms Gulch|