Enjoy a Hike with Your Pooch at Ed R. Levin County Park

Milpitas, Ca – If you’ve got a furry companion, this is the place to be! Ed R. Levin County Park allows dogs on-leash and has an off-leash dog park right near the trail entrance. Perfect for a weekend out with Clifford.

About the Park

Milpitas, Ca – Santa Clara County Park

Visit the Park

If you’ve been hiking around the Bay Area, you know that it’s usually a toss-up as to whether or not dogs are allowed at the park. Ed R. Levin County Park is special, as it allows dogs and has an off-leash dog park.

Please note that there is a $6 vehicle fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

Dogs & Parks – Why Restrict Dog Access?

Dogs, especially when off-leash at parks, are in an area with many other wild animals. In some cases, this can lead to unexpected altercations between dogs and wildlife. Thus, keeping dogs off trails is a way to protect them from harmful interactions such as these.

Beyond that, dogs can also pose a threat to wildlife at the park you’re exploring. Many dogs are curious, and will excitedly greet any new acquaintances made on the trail. However, some species, such as the Western snowy plover, are extremely stressed by events such as these. Snowy plovers are already facing steep population declines from habitat loss and disturbance, so protecting their populations from any sort of stress is critical.

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See Spring Wildflowers at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

Redwood City, Ca – Visit Russian Ridge for the chance to see dazzling displays of wildflowers and hike through a grove of ancient oak trees.

About the Park

Redwood City, Ca – Open Space Preserve

Science Spotlight: Ancient Oaks at Russian Ridge

Russian Ridge offers opportunities to see beautiful views of the Bay Area and gorgeous displays of wildflowers. In addition to the sights, Russian Ridge also offers a piece of California natural history: the chance to see centuries-old oaks on the Ancient Oaks Trail.

The majority of ancient oaks are canyon live oaks, with massive trunks spanning 24 to 56 inches in diameter. Scientists have estimated that trees with 10 to 18-inch trunks are likely 150 years old, meaning that these giants could easily be hundreds of years old.

The spread of Sudden Oak Death throughout California has been cause for concern at Russian Ridge. The pathogen spreads through spores, and results in the sudden browning and consequent death of the infected tree.

Wanting to protect the grove of ancient oaks, any bay laurel trees within 15 feet of the ancient oaks have been removed. Bay laurels are known carriers of the pathogen, so their removal intends to help prevent the disease’s spread to this grove. Visitors are also discouraged from climbing the oaks, as their shoes could carry the pathogen’s spores.

Park History

The Russian Ridge area used to be a dairy farm and cattle grazing land from 1920 – 1950. The operation was run by a Russian immigrant, which resulted later in the naming of the area “Russian Ridge”.

The land began to be acquired in 1978. Today, it is a 3,137 acre preserve run by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Enjoy Spring Poppies at Rancho San Antonio County Park

Cupertino, Ca – Learn more about one of the most popular parks in the Silicon Valley, nestled right in Cupertino.

Species to Look Out For:

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California Poppy

About the Park

Cupertino, Ca – Santa Clara County Park

Science Spotlight: State Flower at Rancho San Antonio

When strolling along the trail at Rancho San Antonio County Park, Dan and I were struck by the sheer numbers of bright California poppies we encountered.

California poppies are bright, adaptable flowers native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They were first named by a naturalist aboard a Russian ship exploring California and Alaska.

California poppies can be found in a variety of habitats, from California’s coasts to the Mojave Desert. Their bright flowers are composed of four petals, and can range in color from yellow to orange. They are symbols of the “Golden State”, earning the title of California’s state flower in 1903.

On any Bay Area hike, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for blooming poppies in the spring and summer!

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California poppy at Rancho San Antonio County Park.

Park History

Prior to European settlement, the Ohlone Native Americans inhabited the area for over 3,000 years. Following the arrival of Juan Baptista de Anza to the Bay Area in 1776, the area around Rancho San Antonio was transformed into ranchland. The ranch changed ownership several times in its lifetime.

The Santa Clara County Parks department began to purchase the land in 1977, eventually accruing over 3,988 acres of land. Today, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Preserve manages the entire park.

For a more detailed history of the park, check out the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Preserve’s page on Rancho San Antonio history.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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Nature in the Heart of Silicon Valley: Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

Palo Alto, Ca – The Pearson-Arastradero Preserve offers grassy hills and miles of trails for hiking and dog walking, right in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Palo Alto, Ca – Open Space

Science Spotlight: Restoring Native Californian Grasslands & Oak Habitat

With the settlement of the Spanish came the introduction of non-native grasses to the Bay Area. These non-native grasses, lacking natural predators in their introduced environments, were able to spread rapidly and out-compete native grasses and wildflowers. As a result, 90% of the native habitat has been lost to foreign invaders.

Native oak habitats have also suffered. Spanish settlers cleared large oaks to make the land available for cattle grazing, and the livestock in turn ate many of the oak saplings and acorns. This, along with depleted soil moisture from non-native plants, has contributed to the loss of much of the oak habitat.

Today, local organizations work with Pearson-Arastradero to restore the habitats that were lost. For more information on how you can get involved, check out the Grassroots Ecology volunteer page or the California Native Plant Society volunteer page.

Park History

The area that is now Pearson-Arastradero was once a working ranch. In 1976, the Palo Alto City Council purchased the land to protect it from developers. They have been acquiring more land for the preserve since, and it now has a total of 622 acres.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

When visiting, we recommend taking the Juan Bautista de Anza trail down to see Arastradero Lake. There, you can find a great assortment of waterfowl, song sparrows, and the occasional black phoebe. When walking along the grassy trails, be on the lookout for American kestrels, western bluebirds and lesser/American goldfinches.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Hike in San Jose at Santa Teresa County Park

San Jose, Ca – Santa Teresa County Park is located just 10 miles outside of bustling San Jose, CA. With its rolling hills and gorgeous views of the Bay Area, this location is definitely worth the short drive.

About the Park

San Jose, Ca – Santa Clara County Park

Science Spotlight: Red-shouldered Hawks at Santa Teresa

Dan and I were making our back after finishing up the hike to Coyote Peak when suddenly a blur of a bird rushed past us on the trail. Looking in the direction of its landing, we were met with an awesome sight: a red-shouldered hawk perched up on a nearby tree. I was surprised when I noted the beautiful red streaking across the belly and shadowy-looking eyebrows of the bird – a surprising sight when you’ve grown used to glancing at perching raptors and seeing red-tailed hawks.

Red-shouldered hawks are typically birds of the forest. Their meals of choice include small mammals, amphibians, small birds, and reptiles. These hawks prefer intact forests – a habitat that has been lost in many places out east, resulting in a decline in local populations.

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Red-shouldered Hawk; © Ferd Brundick, 2014, Flickr Photo Album, some rights reserved.

The red-shouldered hawk, like many other raptors (or birds of prey), has ties to conservation initiatives in the Bay Area. The Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a study on rat poison’s effects on predators, and found that poisoned rodents can cause the secondary deaths of hawks, owls, foxes, and bobcats. The red-shouldered hawk is among the list of species affected. Concerned about the loss of predators, the Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) organization is using posters in a campaign to educate the public about the secondary effects of rat poison. You can help, too – when faced with a rodent issue, leave the killing to the raptors or humane alternatives to poisons.

Park History

For over 6,000 years, the park was occupied by Native American tribes (most notably, the Muwekma Ohlone tribe). The park was visited by Juan Bautista de Anza during his explorations for mission locations in the 1770’s. In 1825 the area was settled by José Joaquin Bernal, a member of the expeditions. The area was primarily used as a ranch, vineyard, and orchard under Bernal. In 1956, the county purchased land for the park, thus beginning the accumulation of acreage for Santa Teresa County Park.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is a fee for parking. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

We recommend making the trek up to Coyote Peak (3.8 Miles) while visiting the park. When walking along the grassy hills, be sure to look out for birds of prey such as the red-tailed hawk and the turkey vulture. When in more forested areas, keep an eye out for red-shouldered hawks and songbirds.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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