Groups and Special Event Permits

Special events, special use, and groups of 25 or more people require permits in advance. Groups of 24 or fewer do not require permits.

Groups of 25 or More

Groups of 25 or more require a reservation or a permit. These include activities such as picnic groups, weddings, hiking and mountain biking meet-ups, classes and docent-led walks. Organizers are responsible for limiting the size of their group.
  • Baylands: Contact the Supervising Ranger at 650-617-3156.
  • Pearson Arastradero Preserve: Contact the Supervising Ranger in Foothills Park at 650-329-2423.
  • Foothills Park:  
    • For group hikes, classes or similar, contact the Supervising Ranger at 650-329-2423.
    • Residency requirements apply. There must be one Palo Alto resident for every 15 non-resident guests.
    • Oak Grove Picnic Area is the only reservable area for groups of 25 or more. It has a capacity of 1 to 150 people.
    • Towle Camp campground may be reserved by groups for use in May through October.
    • To make a reservation for Oak Grove or Towle Camp, use the city's online reservation system. Note that a Foothills Park Guest List Form must be sent to Foothills Park one week before your event.

Gathering Permits

 A Gathering Permit is a basic “free” permit required for groups of 25 or more who gather in parks or plaza’s, and when a Special Event Permit is not required.  This permit does not provide for exclusive use, but allows usage on a first-come, first-serve basis only.  No Insurance is required. 

To submit a request for a Gathering Permit, complete the online questionnaire and all forms.   All forms must be filled out completely, with a detailed description of the event.  An aerial diagram of the event may also be required.  Please allow 10 days for processing, once all requirements are submitted.  

Click  on the following link to complete the Gathering Permit request: Gathering Permit

Special Events / Special Use Permits

"Special events," such as running or bicycling races, usually require the use of many city resources (e.g., road closures, police or fire personnel). Permits for these events are required to be completed at least a month in advance. "Special uses" include scientific research or collecting, commercial photography, rest stops for athletic training events, and weddings. All require permits in advance.

  • Special Event Permits:  download the Special Event Permit Application.
  • Special Use Permits:
    • Baylands: contact the Supervising Ranger at 650-617-3156.
    • Pearson Arastradero Preserve and Foothills Park: contact the Supervising Ranger at 650-329-2423.

Groups of 24 or Fewer

Small groups, which are 24 or fewer adults and children, do not require reservations or permits. Organizers are responsible for limiting the size of their group and may be subject to citation and expulsion from the preserve if the group size exceeds 24 people.

In Foothills Park, 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 total group size may not exceed 24 people without a permit or reservation made in advance. The total number of people in your group may not exceed 24 residents and non-residents, adults and children. Organizers of small groups may obtain a small group guest list form in person from a ranger at the entrance station on the day of your gathering.