Hmm...what to do today?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Family Adventure: Redwood Grove Nature Preserve (Los Altos)


It's such a joy to feel like you've discovered a little secret, especially when that secret is hidden just a few blocks from the bustling downtown of one of the South Bay's most toddler-friendly cities. And that's just what you'll feel when you visit Los Altos' Redwood Grove Nature Preserve. Literally tucked between houses on University Avenue, just a block away from busy Foothill Expressway, this small preserve is a lovely, shady, serene place to enjoy some unstructured nature play with your toddler.

Location: Use the address 482 University Avenue on your GPS -- it's easy to find, near the intersection of El Monte Road and Foothill Expressway, just a few blocks from Downtown Los Altos. There is ample street parking in the beautiful neighborhood, or you can try to park in the Shoup Park parking lot a few doors down (more on Shoup below) and follow the path along Alamo Creek to the preserve.

Cost: Free.


What is it, and why is it so great?

The preserve is just what the name implies -- a redwood grove that has been preserved intact in the middle of a Los Altos neighborhood. From University Avenue, you can walk down a short paved road into the preserve, and then it's up to you to find fun and explore. 

Running, running, always running...
...and this is the ideal place for it!
There are paths -- paved, dirt and (Toddler X's favorite) slatted boardwalk -- for walking (or, if your toddler is anything like mine, running), access areas to Adobe Creek (flowing lazily at this writing -- last year when we visited in late May, it was already dry, so go asap if the creek is a draw for you), bridges (another toddler favorite), a few picnic tables, numbered markers for different tree varieties, and...well, lots of shade.




Lovely spot for a picnic!
If you're a parent who enjoys letting your child engage in free exploration, this is a great spot -- we feel comfortable letting Toddler X run ahead of us down the boardwalks and paths, and he loves choosing our direction at each intersection and finding neat things to do. Also, if you're a mom who avoids some nature outings when alone due to discomfort being solo in a wooded area (um yeah, I'm talking about me), this is a great alternative -- Toddler X and I were here the other day alone, and I felt completely at peace. 
Love the chance to give him his freedom in a safe environment
Last summer he discovered this toddler-size glen!
This is not a place for people who like entertainment to be more structured -- there are no specific "attractions" here beyond what nature offers in a creekside redwood grove...but that's attraction enough for me, and I imagine for many of you as well.

A few more tips:

There are active honeybee hives located at the rear of the preserve, along the trail (they're marked), making this a bad outing for anyone allergic to bee stings.


There are portable toilets in the preserve, but if you detest those things, you can find normal bathrooms by following the short, creekside path to Shoup Park, marked by a sign at the entrance to the preserve. The bathrooms at Shoup are in the small building by the parking lot, and it was definitely worth the 1-2 minute walk to get to them.

Sign for short path from Redwood Grove to Shoup
There are sections of the creek bank right now that they are restoring, according to signs, so it's probably best not to attempt any creek stomping in those areas. The creek access area at Shoup Park (again, down the little path) is a great one.


Overall, this is a really fun, convenient, free nature outing that allows toddlers to burn lots of energy in the shade on hot days, while mom and dad enjoy the peace and serenity that the lovely redwood trees afford. We always combine a visit here with playtime at Shoup Park or a walk to Downtown Los Altos for lunch.

Happy toddling!

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