Words by Linda Hubbard
Cover Photo: Courtesy San Mateo County Parks
Whether you’re seeking a good picnic spot or a brisk walk or hike, Peninsula parks offer a bounty of choices. Explore these suggestions a little more closely, and you’ll also find some unique attractions hiding in plain sight.
RESERVE: BLUFF-TO-BEACH STAIRCASE
Located in Moss Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a much-beloved gateway to an intertidal zone teeming with crabs, sea stars, anemone, mollusks and fish. It’s also where you’ll come across a 160-foot staircase providing convenient access to the tide pools at Seal Cove, where you can spot all kinds of sea creatures when the tide is low. Before its debut in 2010, the only option to get to the cove was sliding on your backside down the steep hillside. Note: Obey signs as this marine protected area provides habitat to harbor seals with access restricted at times.
GOOD TO KNOW + Open 8AM-8PM April-August; other closing times vary by month. + For the best viewing, visit during a low tide that’s 1.0’ or below. + Look for shortcut access to stairs via Cypress Avenue. + Do not remove shells, vegeta- tion, rocks or marine life and stay at least 300 feet from any marine mammal.
Considered a locals’ secret by many, 517-acre Quarry Park is tucked in the community of El Granada, four miles north of Half Moon Bay. Take Quarry Trail from the parking lot, and you’ll come across a labyrinth set at the bottom of an abandoned quarry. Created by labyrinth maker Lars Howlett and installed on World Labyrinth Day in 2012, the 7-Circuit (or path) Petite Chartres pattern has evolved over time. Time your visit for when it’s bathed in sunlight and weave your way to the center.
GOOD TO KNOW + Open 8AM-8PM April-August; other closing times vary by month. + Park entrance is at the corner of Santa Maria Avenue and Columbus Street in El Granada. + Labyrinth is located straight up the Quarry Trail from the parking lot.
STULSAFT PARK: DOGGY DISNEYLAND
A neighborhood fan favorite, this City of Redwood City maintained park is a hidden treasure in itself. In fact, many on the Peninsula are surprised to learn of its existence. Covering 42 acres, Stulsaft features wooded trails and water play areas. Given the park’s ample off-leash area, it’s also considered a “Disneyland for dogs.” The wet winter made it even more so with Arroyo Ojo de Agua flowing through it before connecting to Redwood Creek. Not surprisingly, the creek is popular with kiddos, too. For those wanting a bit of a workout, there are some good pulls up hills.
GOOD TO KNOW + Open 7AM-7PM with lower entrance closing at 6PM. + The entrance at the end of Recreation Way and Goodwin Avenue brings you to the off-leash dog area. There are also two entrances from Farm Hill Boulevard. + Dogs must always be on a leash outside the park gates and outside the designated off-leash trails. Otherwise, dogs must be under verbal control at all times. + Be on alert for coyotes.
HUDDART PARK: KINGS MOUNTAIN ARCHERY RANGE
At 974 acres, Woodside’s Huddart Park is one of the area’s largest, known not only for its redwood trees but also for its summer camps for kids. It’s popular with both hikers and equestrians. Nestled on the eastern slopes of a small mountain range within the park is the Kings Mountain Archery Range featuring a field course of 28 targets ranging in distance from 10 to 100 yards (like different golf tees)—the longer targets are particularly challenging due to the terrain. Kings Mountain Archers offers free training as well archery competitions.
GOOD TO KNOW + Open 8AM-8PM April-August; other closing times vary by month. + Separate range entrance is at 2050 Kings Mountain Road in Woodside. + Targets start at the Kings Mountain Arches building and go down the hill.
Courtesy San Mateo County Parks
JUNIPERO SERRA PARK:
This 103-acre retreat is located just east of the San Andreas Reservoir in San Bruno. El Zanyon Creek flows year-round, offering splashing opportunities on warmer days. Within the park, Meadow View Playground features 54-foot-long double slides, providing a rush worthy of an amusement park ride. The bonus: spectacular views out to SFO and San Bruno Mountain.
GOOD TO KNOW + Open 8AM-8PM April-August; other closing times vary by month. + Entrance ($6 fee) located at 1801 Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno. + The double slides undergo regular maintenance so anticipate unexpected closures.