Our Mission To protect and interpret the resources and wildlife entrusted to Palo Alto for the enjoyment of future generations.
Palo Alto's open space preserves offer a chance to hike from the marshes of the bay to the redwoods of the upper Santa Cruz mountains. The Baylands Preserve protects some of the last remaining salt marsh and mud flat habitats on the west coast. It offers excellent birding year round. Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is a beautiful mixture of rolling savannah grassland and broadleaf evergreen forest. Each area of the preserve has something different to offer: views of the bay; a quiet walk through the grasslands; or a snooze by the lake. Esther Clark Nature Preserve is a good place for quiet meditation or watching the sun set. Foothills Park is a 1,400-acre preserve with rugged chaparral, woodland, fields, streams, a lake, 15 miles of backwoods trails and spectacular views of the bay. This park is open to Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests only.
Open Space offers a variety of nature programs, hikes, camps, walks, and other activities in the preserves. See the Activities and Programs page.
Visit the parks map for location and addresses of the open space preserves as well as neighborhood parks. For all of Palo Alto's open space preserves, see the Open Space trail map.
As of October 9, 2013, smoking is prohibited in all Open Space preserves. For more information, click on this link.
All Open Space Nature Preserves are open daily from 8:00 am until sunset. Click here for Park Hours.
King tides are the highest tides of a season, usually in the winter. You can see these high tides in the Baylands. When the water is high, normally reclusive bird species move up out of the plants and can be more easily seen by binoculars or scopes. You might also be lucky enough to see bat rays, harbor seals or other species. And it's just plain interesting to see what the Baylands looks like when the water level is so high. [more]
Value of Volunteering in Open Space The City of Palo Alto contracts with Acterra and Save the Bay as stewardship partners. Based on this analysis by Acterra, the city gets a return of 2.5 times its investment in the contract.
History of Waste and The Baylands The area now known as the Palo Alto Baylands started as a waste disposal site in the early 20th century. Over time we learned how to better treat and dispose of our waste, and even convert some of it into useful energy. The landfills are now closed and being turned into additional parkland. [more]
Recycled Water Information Recycled water is wastewater that has been purified through a high level of treatment. Reducing the amount of treated wastewater discharged into the South Bay decreases the impacts on saltwater marshes. [more]