There are several facilities in the Open Space preserves that can be rented or reserved. These include picnic areas, meeting rooms, campsites and canoes. Note that groups of 24 or fewer (children included) do not need a reservation to use most picnic areas. If you wish to do something other than these activities, see the Groups and Special Event Permits page. Palo Alto residency requirements apply to all reservations and rentals in Foothills Park.
Payment and Cancellations: Payment for reservations is due immediately. Cancellations must be made in writing and received two weeks before the event. A cancellation fee (1/3 of total charges) is non-refundable unless the city cancels the permit, wherein a full refund will be made. No refund is given if cancellation is less than two weeks.
All picnic areas in the open space preserves are first-come, first-served for groups of 24 adults and children, residents and non-residents included. The exception is Oak Grove picnic area in Foothills Park, which is by reservation only for gatherings up to 150 adults and children.
A small picnic area is next to the ranger station. It has four picnic tables with charcoal barbecues; water is available. Use of the picnic area is first-come, first-served, but if you have a group of 25 or more you must get a permit from the rangers in advance. Call Supervising Ranger Richard Bicknell at 650-617-3156 for the permit.
Seven picnic areas are available to Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests. Tables, charcoal barbecues, and water are available. All picnic areas (with the exception of Oak Grove) are first-come, first-served and are to be used by groups of 24 or fewer adults and children.
Any group of 25 or more adults and children in Foothills Park must reserve Oak Grove. Oak Grove is the only picnic area that can be reserved for the exclusive use of gatherings of 1-150 people.
If Oak Grove is not available on your desired date, then you may try other locations within the city; see the Parks Department's Picnic Reservations page.
Group size at all the non-reservable picnic areas must be 24 or fewer adults and children (residents and non-residents included). Organizers are responsible for the size of their group and may be subject to citation and expulsion from the preserve if the group size exceeds 24 people.
If your group is 25 or more adults and children (residents and non-residents included), you must get a permit and reservation in advance; see the Groups and Special Event Permits page for more information.
Residency requirements apply regardless of group size. All non-resident guests must be accompanied by a Palo Alto resident. Each resident may have up to 15 non-resident guests but the group may not exceed 24 adults and children without a permit or reservation.
Organizers of small groups (24 residents and non-residents, adults and children) may fill out the Small Group Guest List form in person to a ranger at the entrance station or at the Interpretive Center offices on the day of your gathering. Small group guest lists may not be submitted in advance. The form is only available from a ranger on the day of your event so we can ensure proof of residency, group size, and other information is complete. Guest lists that are left at an unattended entrance station or ranger office will not be honored.
Portable barbecues, portable grills, table-top gas stoves, portable tables and inflatable jumpers are prohibited in the Open Space preserves.
Wood burning is not permitted in the barbecues; charcoal only. Wood collecting is not permitted.
If you have a reservation in Oak Grove, you must submit a guest list one week in advance. Click this link to download the Foothills Park Guest List Form. Note: this guest list form is only for use by groups with reservations. Use of this form by groups without a reservation will not be honored.
Meeting rooms are available for rent in the Foothills Park Interpretive Center and the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center.
Baylands: To reserve the Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, contact Alex Hamilton at the Junior Museum and Zoo: 650-329-2412.
Foothills Park: The meeting room in the Interpretive Center can accommodate up to 50 people. Tables and chairs are included. A projector and screen are available for rent. Palo Alto residency rules apply. To reserve, use the city's online reservation system. To check on date availability, call Foothills Park at 650-329-2423 or Lucie Stern Community Center at 650-463-4900.
Note: Rental of this room does not include the lobby area of the Interpretive Center, which is a public space and therefore is not reservable.
If you have a reservation for the Interpretive Center meeting room, you must submit a guest list one week in advance. Click this link to download the Foothills Park Guest List Form.
Towle Camp in Foothills Park is available to Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests for tent camping from May 1 to October 31. At the end of Wildhorse Valley, eight peaceful campsites are nestled under the trees. Each site offers a charcoal barbecue, water, picnic table, tent area and a food storage box. Six of the campsites can accommodate up to eight people, and the remaining two campsites can accommodate up to sixteen people. Campsites can be reserved up to one year in advance. Many Friday and Saturday nights are booked two to four months in advance. Sunday through Thursday nights are often available that same week. To check on date availability, call Foothills Park at 650-329-2423 or Lucie Stern Community Center at 650-463-4900.
Canoes are available to rent in Foothills Park on weekends and holidays from May through October, whenever the entrance station is staffed. Canoe rentals are first come, first served. All transactions take place at the entrance station. Paddles and life vests are included with the hourly rental price. All canoers must wear a life vest.