When I travel I always look for great places to run and I have favorite runs all over the world. In New York I always try to run the Central Park loop, in San Francisco I run along Embarcadero early in the morning and in Palo Alto I try to run the Dish Loop, above Stanford University. The Dish Loop is not only one of the most scenic runs close to Palo Alto, but also one of the most challenging: there is hardly a flat part during the whole run.
On Saturday morning I was in the Bay Area so I did the loop once again. I normally drive my car to the corner of Serra Boulevard and Stanford Avenue, where there is good parking and easy access to the trail. There are other entrances as well, but for me this is the easiest.
The dish loop is about 5.5 km (plus an additional 500 meters from the entrance to the loop) and the whole loop is paved. It’s a very popular place not only for runners but also for hikers, so you won’t be the only one there. But my experience is that if you go before 7 AM (the loop opens at 6:30 AM) it’s still very quiet. Not only that, it also gives you the chance to see the sun rise above the Bay, an incredible sight. The down side is that it can still be pretty cold, especially during this time of the year when it can get close to freezing in the hills during night time, so you may want to bring a hat and gloves.
The views from the loop are great, you can see Silicon Valley below you with Stanford University in the front and the Bay in the back. On the West side you see the mountain range between the Pacific coast, often with clouds right behind them. At the Northern end of the loop you pass by a golf course, and of course there are the 2 dishes that gave the loop its name.
Right from the entrance you start to ascend, and it’s so steep that the first kilometer takes me on average about 8 minutes (it’s only uphill)! But once you reached the top you will mainly go downhill (with a few small inclines) for a while so you recover a bit.
If you are in the Palo Alto area and looking for a place to run or hike check out the Dish Loop. The road is closed to traffic, so it’s also safe for kids – just watch out for the mountain lions (at least that’s what the signs say). And don’t forget to bring your camera!