This is the windiest area of the park, so plan accordingly! Walk to the Main Parking Area’s SW corner, and follow signs to the Coastside Trails (you will walk SW). The Old Cove Landing Trail begins paved, then becomes a wide fine gravel path with very occasional small ruts or puddles. A Viewing Station is set up early on, with a placard and bench on a platform. Enjoy sights of steep cliffs and small sandy beaches, seals and sea birds, and plenty of gorgeous grass, mustard, and wildflowers. Where the path turns inland (Sand Plant Beach), you can connect to Ohlone Bluff Trail, either by crossing the beach or continuing inland and looking for the path that cuts North. You’ll pass three more beaches before the path ends at a tunnel beneath Hwy 1 (that accesses the numerous trails in the East side of the park). Return back the way you came or cut inland along the farm road described above to end the Old Cove Landing Trail’s Loop.
This is the windiest area of the park, so plan accordingly! Walk to the Main Parking Area’s SW corner, and follow signs to the Coastside Trails (you will walk SW). The Old Cove Landing Trail begins paved, then becomes a wide fine gravel path with very occasional small ruts or puddles. A Viewing Station is set up early on, with a placard and bench on a platform. Enjoy sights of steep cliffs and small sandy beaches, seals and sea birds, and plenty of gorgeous grass, mustard, and wildflowers. The path eventually turns inland along a road with some grassy growth between lateral ruts the perfect distance apart for truck tires – this is the only area that is really any work to navigate, even for a baby jogger. This farm road dips down and crosses railroad tracks, then heads uphill to the park entrance and parking area. If you prefer not to cut inland along the farm road, you can return the way you came.
This hike zigzags you up through an Oak Woodland into a Redwood Grove, past a retaining pond where Newts can often be found or at least a lot of pond scum, and back through a Eucalyptus Grove to a bench with a view over the SF Bay. You’ll finish up with a chance to visit some horses or climb up into the stump of a burned-out Redwood tree.
Head out of the parking lot on the trail that passes behind the historic Folger Stable. At the first intersection, go through the narrow gate straight ahead to continue on the Bear Gulch Trail. This trail meanders up some wide switchbacks to the Madrone Trail. It is the narrowest trail of this hike. Here you can continue on the wider Madrone Trail (a fire road better suited to joggers) to your left or continue straight on the Bear Gulch Trail up to the Redwood Flat (a beautiful collection of Fairy Circles of Redwood Trees) and then turn left on the Redwood Trail adding 0.6 miles to the route.
Both Madrone Trail and Redwood Trail meet up at the Salamander Flat. Take some time to check out the retaining pond, used to store water for the historic Folger Estate. You may notice pipes along the trails used to transport this water.
From Salamander Flat, continue on the Madrone Trail to the intersection with the Meadow Trail and stay to the left. You’ll be in an Eucalyptus Grove, so take some time to explore the signature gum-tree “acorns” and strips of bark and leaves covering the trail. Next, take a left onto the Alambique Trail and really start your descent back to the parking lot.
There is a bench part way down with a wonderful view over Portola Valley and Stanford, out to the SF Bay. Feel free to stop at this bench, but beware it is surrounded by poison oak. Further down the trail on your left is the remains of an old-growth Redwood Tree. It is fun to climb and explore.
Back at the parking lot, take some time to visit the horses. You can watch them graze in the stables or practice jumping.
Beginning at the gate at Lake Road, stop at the sign to ponder the map, then head down the wide fire road. You’ll see a bench where the trail forks; turn left towards the lake (right takes you down John Brooks Trail, which gets steep in spots, but does lead to two nice vista spots higher up). After the lake comes into view after about 0.6 miles, look for a wide trail to access it, turning to your right. Stop to enjoy the lake then continue back the way you came out.
Extend the hike past the parking area, along Lake Road, across Hallmark Drive, then continue along the wide Upper Lake Road Trail, which covers a distance of 0.4 miles before ending. It passes through residential area entirely, so it’s not as picturesque of a way to travel, but it will add 0.8 miles distance (round trip).