Foothills Nature Preserve

Due to inclement weather and hazards, our open space preserves may close or partially restrict access without notification.

Bounded by Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, Pearson - Arastradero Preserve and Los Trancos Open Space Preserve, the 1,400-acre Foothills Nature Preserve is a nature lover's paradise. Miles of trails provide access through rugged chaparral, woodlands, fields, streams, a lake, and provides spectacular views of the Bay Area. Wildlife abounds, and it is common to see deer and coyotes; if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of a bobcat.

Foothills Nature Preserve, several people enjoying the view of the rolling green hills eastward toward Stanford, Downtown Palo Alto and the bay

Watch this video to learn more about Foothills Nature Preserve

Entrance Fees

Daily Vehicle Entrance Fee is As Follows:

  • $6 per vehicle (9 passenger or less capacity)
  • $30 per vehicle (10-24 passenger capacity)
  • $60 per vehicle (25 or more passenger capacity)
  • See "Free One Day Use Passes" below for more information about free vehicle entrance days, volunteers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.  

Annual Pass (for vehicles that hold 9 people or less):

  • $50 for residents and City employees
  • $65 for non-residents
  • 25% discount for seniors (resident or non-resident)
  • 50% discount for students between the ages of 16 - 24 years of age
  • Free for active military, veterans, and low - income visitors (residents or non-resident)
  • Free for students in the 4th Grade. The pass is valid from August of the year the student begins 4th Grade to August 31st the following year. Students must be present in the vehicle when using the student pass.
  • Free for persons with developmental, hearing, speech, visual, mental, or physical disabilities.
  • Annual Pass may be interchanged between two vehicles in the same household. Provide both license plate numbers at time of Annual Pass purchase.

Annual Passes Can Be Purchased the Following Ways:

Foothills Nature Preserve Annual Pass

Free One Day Use Passes

Free One Day Use Vehicle Passes are Available at Palo Alto Libraries:

  • Passes are available at all library locations
  • 10 total passes will be available daily across all the library branches. (The Library will be tracking total number of passes given daily across the locations).
  • Passes are available on a first-come, first-served basis, during our library's current regular business hours. No appointment is necessary to get the passes.
  • Palo Alto residency or Palo Alto City Library account are not required.
  • Passes are available up to seven days in advance of the desired visit date.
  • One pass per visit day, per visitor. (Example: Patron X can ONLY receive one pass for today's date, NOT two.)
  • Two passes per week, per visitor: (Example: Patron X can get a pass for today and tomorrow, but NOT for the day after.)

Free Vehicle Entrance Days:

Free entry for vehicles will be granted annually on the following days:

  • The 1st Friday in October  
  • The 1st Saturday in December
  • The 3rd Monday in January
  • The 1st Tuesday in March
  • The Last Wednesday in April
  • The 3rd Thursday in June

Free Entry for Volunteers:

  • Visitors registered and participating in City designated volunteer events in Foothills Nature Preserve will have free vehicle entry during the day of the volunteer event. Passes will be provided from the volunteer organization in advance. Participating volunteer organizations include Grassroots Ecology, Friends of Foothills, and the Environmental Volunteers.

Free Entry for Pedestrians and Bicyclists:

  • Pedestrians and bicyclists may enter Foothills Nature Preserve for free.

Park Visitor Limit

On May 2, 2022, City Council passed an ordinance further refining park visitor limits. The City Manager is now authorized to adjust the visitor limit from 400 to 600 people at any one time. The following persons shall not count toward the visitor limit: 

  • Visitors with reservations in the Towle Campground, Oak Grove Picnic Area, and Interpretive Center Meeting Room 

  • City-sanctioned recreation and education groups (including City-run programs for summer camps, field trips, and community partner youth groups)  

  • Group permit holders  

  • City-sanctioned park volunteers; and   

  • Visitors arriving in a vehicle with a valid disabled person parking placard or license plate 

When the visitor capacity is reached, the Foothills Nature Preserve entrance will close and reopen after 1-2 hours, depending on how many people exit the park.

These approaches and other actions are to help manage the number of visitors in the park at one time and provide a safe, enjoyable and consistent experience for parkgoers, while protecting the natural resources at Foothills. While hikers and cyclists may continue to enter Foothills, visitors should note that parking is prohibited along most streets near the Foothills entrance gate. Blocking traffic on Page Mill Road is also prohibited.   

If Foothills Nature Preserve is at capacity, we encourage you to visit one of Palo Alto's other open spaces or parks or return at a later time.


  • The land for Foothills Nature Preserve was sold to the City of Palo Alto by Dr. Russel Lee, founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, and his wife Dorothy in 1958, on the condition that it be preserved as open space. The park was formally dedicated in 1965. The Interpretive Center in the park is housed in a building originally built by the Lees as a horse stable. For more information, see the Palo Alto Historical Association's chapter on Foothills Park in their city history.
  • On February 21, City Council adopted an ordinance to change the name of Foothills Park to Foothills Nature Preserve. This will take effect April 8.

Preserve Rules

These are a few of the rules to help everyone enjoy this nature preserve:

  • Dogs are not permitted anywhere in Foothills Nature Preserve on weekends or city holidays. Dogs are only permitted on weekdays and must be on a leash under physical control at all times. More information is on our Dogs page.
  • Horses are not permitted anywhere in Foothills Nature Preserve. 
  • Bicycles are allowed on paved roads only, and not on trails. All bicyclists must wear helmets.
  • Coasting devices (i.e., skates, roller blades, scooters, and skateboards) are not allowed in Open Space.
  • Fires and barbecues are restricted to designated areas. Staff may restrict usage depending on fire danger.
  • Use park barbecues for charcoal fires only; no wood fires.
  • No collecting of plants or animals.
  • No smoking anywhere within Open Space nature preserves.
  • No remote-control devices, for articles such as boats, planes, quadcopters or drones.

For more information, please visit our Rules and Regulations page or contact the rangers at 650-329-2423.

Things to Do

Hiking Trails: There are fifteen miles of hiking trails, which offer a variety of hiking experiences. The longest hike is the Los Trancos Trail, which is 7.5 miles. The Toyon Self-Guided Nature Trail enables you to learn about nature at your own pace. See the Foothills Nature Preserve trail map for more information. 

Lake, Fishing, and Boating: Fishing is permitted in Boronda Lake. All anglers age 16 and over must have a California Sport Fishing License. Fish species in the lake include bass, and sunfish. While swimming is prohibited you may enjoy the lake with your non-motorized and hand-launched boat. Canoes are also available for rent on the weekends and holidays from May 1st to October 31st, weather and staffing permitting. 

Picnic Areas: Five picnic areas are first-come, first-served, and there is one picnic area that is by reservation only. Tables, barbecues, and water are available. Groups at the non-reservable picnic areas may not exceed 24 people (adults and children, residents and non-residents included). Groups of 25 or more people must have a reservation in advance for the Oak Grove picnic area

Camping: Towle Camp is a seasonal campground available for tent camping from May 1 to October 31. To make a reservation for camping, use the city's online reservation system. For more information, visit the Foothills Towle Campground page or call 650-329-2423

Nature Interpretive Center: The Nature Interpretive Center has exhibits and maps and is the starting point for many nature walks. There is a meeting room available for rent. For more information, see Foothills Interpretive Center Meeting Room Reservation Information.

Nature Programs: Ranger-led activities are available throughout the year in Foothills Nature Preserve. See the Activities and Programs page for more information.

Groups and Special Events

  • Open Space has specific rules on group sizes. Those with groups of 25 or more must have a permit or reservation in advance. Those with groups of 24 or fewer do not need a permit. Adults and children are included in the group size.

  • For more information, please visit our Groups and Special Events Permits page and Oak Grove Picnic Area page. 


11799 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94022  View Map

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