Stanford Area Trails
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County trails required by Stanford's new General Use Permit.

John Nagle
27 November 2000

As a requirement for future development by Stanford, the County of Santa Clara has required Stanford to build out trails in the Stanford Dish area. Stanford's recent actions in reducing access to the Dish area have produced considerable interest among trail users in finding ways to provide trail access in the Stanford area. Existing planning documents indicate that options exist which have not been widely discussed. This summary provides some background on some trails that are consistent with the County Trail Master Plan and Stanford's current General Use Permit.

The Santa Clara County Trail Master Plan

Santa Clara County has a Trail Master Plan. The Plan shows a system of multi-use trails throughout the county. Parts of this trail system already exist, but much of it does not. In general, the County advances the build-out of the trail system by making trail easements and construction a condition of permits for construction and land use changes by landowners who own land over which trails will pass.

The trails

Two mapped trails pass over Stanford land in Santa Clara County. These are trail C-1, the San Francisquito / Los Trancos Creek trail, and trail S-1, the Matadero Creek / Page Mill Trail. Neither trail has been built out over Stanford land, but substantial portions of these trails already exist on the property of others. Our goal is to connect the pieces and provide a recreational facility for public use.

San Francisquito / Los Trancos Creek trail details

Matadero Creek / Page Mill Trail details

Stanford's obligations

It is a requirement of the General Use Permit that Stanford build these trails. From "Stanford General Use Permit, Informational Draft on Areas of Agreement, 27 November 2000". Page 22:

2. Stanford shall dedicate easements for, develop, and maintain the portions of the two trail alignments which cross Stanford lands shown in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan (Routes S1 and C1), according to the following timeline:

a. In consultation with the County Parks and Recreation Department, Stanford shall identify trail easements and complete Agreements for Trail Easements within one year of GUP approval. For purposes of this condition, the term “easement” includes any other equally enforceable mechanism acceptable to the County Board of Supervisors.

b. Stanford shall work with the County Parks and Recreation Department to identify responsibilities for trail construction, management and maintenance. An agreement regarding these issues, including but not limited to a time frame for implementation, shall be reached within one year of GUP approval.

Jurisdictional issues

Trails are only useful if the sections connect. The sections of the trails discussed here involve San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Portola Valley. We've been working with the San Mateo County Trail Advisory Board and the Palo Alto Planning Department, and our proposal is consistent with the publications and informal positions of those agencies.

Trail users


These trails provides a quick escape from the urban environment, offering a relatively easy hike with connections to trail systems offering more challenging climbs and distances.


With the closure of the Cardiac Hill trail near Stanford Avenue, the serious runners in the Stanford area (a group which includes several Olympic athletes) have lacked good hills to run. These trails will provide a good, hilly running route for the serious athlete.


Stanford's privately-operated Dish trail system is not open to bicyclists or mountain bikers. In conformance with the County Trail Master Plan, the new trails would be open to mountain bikes. We expect that this will provide a significant new recreational opportunity for mountain bikers, providing a good hill ride accessable from the campus area. The trails must be built out to width standards sufficient to accomodate this mixed use.


There's far more horse activity in this area than is generally realized.  Over seven hundred horses are stabled within a mile of the San Francisquito / Los Trancos Creek trail. The figure below shows only major public stables with over 100 horses. These large facilities. with the exception of Creekside Stables, are on land leased from Stanford. Many smaller horse facilities are on private property.
Table 1 - Horse Population along the San Francisquito / Los Trancos Creek trail
Stanford Equestrian Center 100
Portola Valley Training Center 150
Webb Ranch 300
Creekside Stables
Portola Pastures 100
Rancho Viejo

Typical costs to keep a horse in this area run upwards from $6000 per year, ($10,000 is probably more realistic) so annual horse activity along this trail alone is roughly $7,000,000 in financial terms.

With the unexpected closing of the Dish area to horses, the Stanford Equestrian Center has become landlocked. There's no place to go. Several riders have already been forced to move their horses elsewhere, lacking the access to hills and trails needed to condition their animals for competition.

Imagery shown is circa 1998. Used with permission of GlobeXplorer.

This site is operated by a group of Stanford-area people, many of whom are Stanford alumni.
It is not an official site of Stanford University.
Last update November 16, 2001.