Stanford Dish Trail Loop

The Stanford Dish Trail is an easy 3.6 mile walk on the Stanford Campus. The wide paved path that winds along the rolling hills adjacent to the campus is popular with walkers and runners. While the trail overall is an accessible, family-friendly walking route, there are some steep sections. If you begin your walk at the Stanford Avenue trailhead the initial climb will get your blood pumping!

The Oak trees that scatter the preserve offer little shade on the exposed trail. The Stanford Dish Trail is named after the radiotelescope, which can be seen prominently from the high points of the trail. Sometimes the radiotelescope will be moving slowly, and in my mind I always picture groups of scientists in high-tech bunkers puzzling over long equations and bits of code, trying to get the angle of the dish just right.

Although the Dish is a prominent feature on the trail, there is plenty of time to enjoy the landscape and the sweeping views of Palo Alto and the East Bay hills. On a clear day you can see the entire northern peninsula all the way to San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.

The university’s conservation biology program works to restore the area around the dish by nurturing native plants and grasses, and by protecting the habitats of threatened animals like the California tiger salamander. There are signs of wildlife all over the park, and for such a popular trail there are often wildlife sightings. Coyotes, bobcat, and deer inhabit the land but are often elusive, but the wild turkeys are much easier to hear and spot.

The Stanford Dish Trail is open from sunrise to sunset. For a monthly list of hours visit Stanford’s website.

The Trailhead

The loop trail has three entrances, but the most popular trailhead is at the intersection of Stanford Ave. and Junipero Serra Blvd.

The Route

This easy to follow, paved loop trail is popular with runners and walkers. Some sections of the trail are steep, but overall it is an easy hike. While you can hike this trail in any direction, I prefer to hike it clockwise so that the bulk of the climbing is at the beginning of the hike.

Other Details

Trail Safety

Like all outdoor pursuits, hiking can be dangerous. It is up to you to assess your fitness level and education yourself about any potential dangers. While I try to regularly update these hiking guides, you should always research trail conditions before heading out.

Being prepared means arriving at the trailhead with water and some basic provisions. Each and every time I hit the trail I bring a backpack with more water than I think I need, a small first aid kit, and a snack. I also share my itinerary and plans with friends or family and I carry an InReach so I can summon help if needed. If you want to know what I carry in my pack during day hikes check out my blog post about essential gear for day hikers.

Stay safe, enjoy the trail, and soak up the magic of nature!

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