From Skyline to the Dish to Shoreline, here are our favorite views in Silicon Valley with tips on how to visit, enjoy and photograph them.Less
A local community college might not be the first place one thinks of when seeking out scenery, but College of San Mateo sits on 153 acres in the San Mateo hills with a panoramic view of the Bay. On Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the campus hosts a year-round farmers market with dozens of vendors and food truck fare from spots like The Chairman and Scott’s Chowder House.Grab a pastry and coffee or some lunch and stroll to the edge of the market to take in the views.
Head up Club Drive in San Carlos or Hastings and Carlmont drives in Belmont to find a winding neighborhood with views of the San Francisco skyline. In the 1920s and ’30s, the top of Club Drive was home to the Devonshire Club, which hosted many social events. The neighborhood has a vista point designed for cars to pull over and take in the views and two small parks: Vista Park and North Crestview Park, an undeveloped spot where locals like to walk their dogs.
Named for its breezy hilltop, this 1,414-acre preserve has open grassland ridges and forests of oak, redwood and fir trees. From the peak, there are 360-degree views of the Bay, the ocean and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the preserve permits cyclists, equestrians and leashed dogs on designated trails. Be aware that parking can be hard to come by.
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero has been standing since 1872, offering motorists the opportunity to stop in a turnout off the highway for some quick snapshots. Coastal wildflowers frame the lighthouse in temperate months. The lighthouse property (though not the structure itself) is open to the public as a state park, with a fog signal building housing the Fresnel lens made up of 1,008 prisms and former U.S. Coast Guard residences converted into a hostel.
The Stanford Dish Trail allows visitors a close-up view of the Dish, a radio telescope still in use and a familiar landmark off I-280 in the Palo Alto hills. There’s steep terrain, no shade or benches and parking can be a pain, but the winding trail offers up views of the Stanford campus and surrounding cities.
At Pillar Point Bluff, find sweeping views of the Pacific, Half Moon Bay, Pillar Point Harbor, surrounding agricultural lands, the world-famous surf spot Mavericks and the “golf ball,” the Pillar Point Air Force Tracking station situated on the bluffs above the ocean. Migrating gray whales can be spotted from the 3-mile round-trip Jean Lauer Trail, making it a prime spot during winter whale-watching season in the Bay Area.
The trails around the Crystal Springs Reservoir — the water itself is off-limits — are a popular spot for families, casual hikers and serious runners alike, with views of the sparkling reservoir and surrounding tree-covered hills. In 2019 after a yearslong replacement project, the dam bridge at the reservoir reopened, adding a new segment to the Crystal Springs Trail that allows one a peek at the famed “Flintstone house” from the dam bridge.
One can go from beachside to blufftop on a walk from Pacifica Pier to Mori Point. Grab a coffee and a bite to eat from the Chit-Chat Cafe, then meander at the pier or head straight to Mori Point. The site of the former Mori Point Inn, which had a notorious reputation during the Prohibition days, Mori Point became a part of Golden Gate National Park in 2000. Hike up to the point for a backdrop of wildflowers, Pacifica homes and the coastline.
Until December 2020, only Palo Alto residents and their guests were allowed in what was formerly known as Foothills Park. The Palo Alto City Council reversed the nonresident ban to settle a lawsuit. There are 15 miles of hiking trails; fishing, boating and selfie opportunities at Boronda Lake. Know before you go: There’s a daily cap on park visitors and a $6 per car entry fee.
This 50-acre lake has a backdrop of the surrounding mountains and is a popular spot to rent sailboats, windsurfing boards, kayaks and paddle boats, especially on the 4th of July when fireworks light up the sky. American Bistro at Shoreline Lake serves breakfast sandwiches, salads and burgers and offers takeout you can enjoy picnic-style. The park has more than 10 miles of trails linking Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.