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Stanford, California, United States

The Stanford Dish Hike

A scenic 4-mile loop on steep, paved trails with great views on Stanford University and the San Francisco Bay.

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 (12 votes, 5 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.0 miles / 6.5 km
Duration: 1 hour or less
Family Friendly
Overview: The Stanford Dish loop is a popular route for Stanford University students as well as Silicon Valley professionals. Its steep paved trail is suitable for running, walking, and hiking. Bicycles are not allowed. Opening hours vary depending on the month of the year:

January 6:30 AM-5:30 PM
February 6:30 AM-6 PM
March 6 AM-6:30 PM
April 6 AM-8 PM
May 6 AM-8 PM
June 6 AM-8 PM
July 6 AM-8 PM
August 6 AM-8 PM
September 6:30 AM-7:30 PM
October 6:30 AM-6:30 PM
November 6:30 AM-5:30 PM
December 6:30 AM-5:30 PM

Points of Interest


Stanford Avenue street-side parking

There is lots of space for street side parking on Stanford Avenue, but it can fill up quickly, especially on sunny days, so you may have to park several hundred yards away.

U-turns are prohibited on Stanford Ave. This rule is frequently enforced, so to avoid a ticket don't make a U-turn when you see a parking spot at the opposite side of the street. A good parking strategy is to approach the Dish on Junipero Serra Blvd, and turn into Stanford Ave (away from the Dish entrance). When you find a spot on the right-hand side of the street, take it. If there are no spots on the right-hand side, but you see spots on the left-hand side, make a right onto Raimundo Way, and turn around, then make a left on Stanford Ave and snatch your parking spot.

When parking make sure to watch out for bicyclists.

Stanford Avenue Entrance

Enter the Dish area here and don't forget to greet the friendly guard. Many joggers stop here to stretch.

To start the Dish trail simply follow the paved trail leading up the hill.

Junction (near Stanford Avenue entrance)

Turn left here the follow the Dish loop in clockwise direction. Where the trail enters a short tree-lined section it will become quite steep for a short while.

Highest point

After a sustained climb you've reached the highest point of the Dish loop. Several ups and downs are still to come, but it's mostly down.

Enjoy the views on Stanford, the foothills and the San Francisco Bay. On clear days you can even see San Francisco's skyline from here.

Junction (near the actual Dish)

Continue straight on here, unless you want to add another mile or 2 on the backside of the Dish, which is an out and back variant.

Junction (near the Campus Loop entrance)

Take a right here to loop back to the start. There are a couple of ups and downs still waiting for you, but most of the hills are behind you now.

Home stretch

After a short and steep downhill section you are on the home stretch. From here only a final short climb will follow towards the very end.

You'll pass about a dozen houses on the left of the trail, with gardens extending toward the Dish trail, some of who have a gates to dish trail. Sounds like a great place to live? Prices of these houses vary between $1.3 million and $ 3 million (according to

The Dish

The Stanford Dish is a radio telescope and a major landmark that is clearly visible from Stanford University and from Highway 280.

The 150-foot diameter dish was built in 1966 by the Stanford Research Institute. The cost to construct the telescope was $4.5 million, and was funded by the United States Air Force, with the original purpose of studying the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Later on, the Dish was used to communicate with satellites and spacecraft. With its unique Bistatic range radio communications, where the transmitter and receiver are separate units, the powerful radar antenna was well-suited for communicating with spacecraft in regions where conventional radio signals may be disrupted.

At one point, the Dish transmitted signals to each of the Voyager crafts that NASA dispatched into the outer reaches of the solar system. It has also been used to remotely recalibrate ailing satellites orbiting the Earth.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Water fountain

This is the only drink water available in the Dish area. To access it, take the downward sloping side trail to the left. The water fountain is located on your right, just below the main trail.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris, mlvlvr, Steve44MCaUSA, wooac, petercarlos, mbelous, benoitz, szr
Don't even try to park on Stanford Ave on weekends. There are other entrances to the park, notably one at Foothill and Campus Loop. Parking on the university campus is abundant and in most places not restricted on weekends.

The trail has almost no shade - prepare enough water.

Visited on Apr 11, 2015

by grep on Apr 13, 2015
This is a very good hike centrally located for many in the south bay and peninsula. It has very nice views of the surrounding area and makes for a good morning hike. However, the sheer number of a people on the trail in a major drawback. Its hard to get away from the hustle and bustle of society when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the trail on a weekend morning. I would probably go back, but its not my first choice for hiking.
Visited on Mar 29, 2015

by indometalman on Mar 29, 2015
@Trailking: Bikes are prohibited and so are dogs. Unfortunately (in my opinion at least) the rules are a bit strict at the Dish. You can't even go off trail for more than 10 meters before an official comes and summons you back on trail. A friend of mine who has lived in the area for more than 50 years told me that (obviously) this trail was very different when he was a kid: everyone could go where they wanted, and there was a network of trails (as opposed to one paved loop that exists today).

Still, the Dish is a great loop for run, or family hike. I still go there almost every week.

Visited on Jan 30, 2011

by joost on Jan 30, 2011
This was my go-to hike/run for years and is still one of favorites. It's such an accessible hike for people near Palo Alto, and it affords incredible views of the valley and bay, thanks to the generosity of Stanford University and the foresight of the Stanford family to preserve the open spaces. Be on the look out for everything from tarantulas to prarie dogs to low-flying hawks and of course the myriad satellite dishes talking to ET :-)

by krbose on Jan 27, 2011
This guide has great information. It almost looks as if bikes could be ridden on some portions of the route. Are they prohibited or just not recommended?
Visited on Jan 16, 2011

by trailsnet on Jan 16, 2011

The Stanford Dish Hike Trail Map

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