Pearson-Arastradero Preserve - Palo Alto, CA
Pearson-Arastradero Preserve Trail Review - Palo Alto, CA
Near the Stanford Dish you'll find the dog friendly Pearson-Arastradero Reserve, a grassy expanse with hiking trails on either side of Arastradero Road. The sight of the expansive, rolling hills of golden grass dotted with trees with views all the way to the San Francisco Bay can be compelling, though you'll want to be on the southern side of Arastradero Road to avoid hearing the white noise emanating from the nearby I-280 freeway. Be prepared to share the trail with cyclists and horseback riders as well.
- Easy difficulty; a number of trails present a variety of different mileages to choose from for your hike. Little elevation change to speak of, as the hills gently roll. Parking can be limited in the lot on Arastradero Road.
- Dogs must be on-leash at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve. The grass is tall and isn't really suitable for off-leash play anyway, and the piles of horse poo and occasional trail-side rodent sightings will further encourage you to keep your dog under your control.
- You'll find a water fountain and decently maintained bathrooms at the parking area on Arastradero Road. There are no trash cans along the trail so you'll need to pack out your poo bags until you get back to the parking area.
- The trails are almost completed exposed to the sun which can spell trouble for temperature-sensitive dogs -- the various trails tend to only skirt the treeline, offering little shade.
How to Get There
Easy-peasy. Just take the I-280 freeway to exit 20 (Page Mill Road), heading south off the exit ramp. A quick right on Arastradero Road, and a half-mile later -- boom, the parking area for the Pearson Arastradero Preserve is on your right. No fuss, no muss. The downside of this is of course the freeway noise that you'll hear if you take the Redtail Loop trail.
- I mentioned the piles of horse poo, right? Definitely watch your step. And if your dog has certain predilections, keep them on a tight leash.
- These are shared trails so know the rules -- always yield to equestrians, and bikes must yield to hikers.
- The trails are well- and consistently maintained; the downside is that sometimes you may catch them doing maintenance while you're around -- that can mean unpassable piles of gravel for stretches on the trail, though you can skirt around these by walking at the edge where the trail meets the grass.
- The cityofpaloalto website mentions that the Pearson Arastradero Preserve is a habitat for mountain lions -- I've never seen them there, but you should at least be aware of the possibility.
- Much more prevalent that mountain lions are rodents who burrow in the grass near the edge of the trail -- Grammar pounced multiple times trying to catch them on our hike, so if your dog has a strong prey drive be aware so that you don't get pulled off balance. You can also see birds around the pockets of trees.
- As with most hiking in Northern California, be aware of ticks if your dog (or you) likes to walk in the tall grass -- it causes erosion and is kind of a dick move to go off trail, so you kind of earn it if you elect to stray.
Area Resources and Recommended Equipment
- You can get by hiking the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in tennis/ walking shoes since the trails are so well-maintained. It's sunny so slather on the sunscreen, and you may also want to wear sunglasses or a hat if that's your thing or if they make you look cool. It's Palo Alto so it can actually get hot there -- bring plenty of water (and a bowl for your dog), even if you're going for just a couple miles. And poop bags -- don't forget the poop bags.
- Grocery stores are spotty on this side of the I-280 freeway but there's plenty in nearby Los Altos and Palo Alto. Don't expect any to be dog friendly though.
- Amigos Grill is close by in Portola Valley if you're in the mood for Mexican food after your hike; it's a close race between Rick's Cafe and Village Pantry in Los Altos for brunch or breakfast food but get in before they close (Rick's closes at 2:30pm during the week and 3:00pm on weekends; Village Pantry closes at 2:00pm everyday); Spot in Los Altos can feed your jones for pizza. All are dog friendly.
- Looking to go straight to the hard stuff? You lush, you. In downtown Los Altos you can bring your dog to Honcho (Yelp) where they have sidewalk seating, and a notably good beer list -- definitely seems like a solid dog friendly bar option. Just two blocks away, Los Altos Grill (Yelp) not only has a good wine and beer selection of their own, but there's NO CORKAGE FEE so feel free to bring your own bottle as you soak up their dog friendly patio. More of a restaurant than a bar but dog-friendly + booze, so I'm calling it out.
- Adobe Animal Hospital (map) in nearby Los Altos is the nearest 24/7 animal hospital, 15 minutes (5 miles) away on the other side of the I-280 freeway. This facility is well-rated, similarly located to other vet clinics, and is open whenever you might need them so they're your best bet (the other area clinics have limited hours on Saturday and are closed on Sunday).
Other trails in this area: Sweeney Ridge (San Bruno, CA).