We've done a few hikes at Windy Hill Preserve before, and if you plan on starting from Portola Valley up, we recommend hiking up Hamms Gulch Trail. It is mostly shaded and scenic. Once at the top, take the Spring Ridge Trail down, enjoying the open views of the entire Silicon Valley. On a clear day, you can even see San Franciso and Oakland skyline.
The entrance from Portola Valley is somewhat hidden, but the plenty of parking in the dirt parking lot. Weekends are busy, and some people park on the road.
The Hamms Gulch up and Ridge Trail down loop is 8 miles long and takes about 3 hours to hike.
All trail intersections are marked, but having a map handy helps figure out the distances.
Plenty of wildflowers are blooming along the trail in the early spring like this one:
Hamms Gulch Trail has plenty of shade, and it is easier to hike up on a hot day.
Wildflowers like this one are hard to pass by without taking a picture.
Just over a mile into the hike is this scenic part of the trail.
A small creek crossing has so many tiny butterflies swarming around. It was challenging to get a picture of one.
More wildflowers along the trail:
These plants look like flowers but aren't. I wonder what these are?
More tiny wildflowers:
About 2 miles into the hike, ancient-looking trees look magical:
"Future butterflies" look scary when they are still in their caterpillar form.
Sunrays illuminate parts of the trail.
Bees are busy at work.
Almost at the very top of the hill, the trees are taller and provide even more shade.
Making sure we aren't lost. The "Lost Trail" is right around the corner.
We'll save the "Lost Trail" for another time. It is also spectacular and easy to hike.
What are these flowers?
At the top of the Windy Hill Preserve, the trail is wide open, and the golden poppies are everywhere.
The Windy Hills is windy on most days. On this day, it was exceptionally calm. The two hills on the top left photo is where the wind kicks in.
In this photo, you can see the Spring Ridge Trail weaving down the hill with Stanford University campus in the distance.