Hiker rescued after fall down trail at Foothills Park in Palo Alto


An 85-year-old hiker was rescued after she slipped off a trail and went about 50 feet down to an embankment at Foothills Park in Palo Alto Thursday morning, a fire official said.

Around 11 a.m., crews responded to a report of a person who fell at Foothills Park, located off of Page Mill Road in the city's hills, deputy fire Chief Catherine Capriles said.

Emergency responders learned an 85-year-old woman was with her husband hiking at Los Trancos Trail and slid down an embankment, Capriles said.

It took crews longer than usual to set up a rope rescue system due to the narrow trail and 40-degree slope in the area filled with poison oak and trees, Capriles said.

Rescuers went down 45 to 50 feet below to the woman, who had a broken right leg, according to Capriles.

The hiker was placed in a Stokes basket, brought back up to the trail and taken to a hospital by an ambulance shortly before 1 p.m., Capriles said.

The woman may have lost her footing and went off the trail, but it's not clear what led the woman to slip, according to Capriles.

The windy trail is filled with vegetation and runs about seven-and-a-half miles long, Capriles said.

The public is advised to always have a companion and watch their footing while hiking, Carpiles said.

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5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2016 at 7:55 pm

I'm curious - who called the fire department? Cell phone coverage is pretty terrible in Foothills Park. Did her husband call with a cell phone or did someone else run down the hill to the visitor center to call for help?

Good job by the fire department getting her to safety before dark.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:33 pm

I seem to remember another hiker of similar age having a similar fall and experience a few months back.

Some of these trails are much harder than others. There are very little warnings on the signs as to how difficult some of the trails are. The length of the trail is very different from the gradient or even the difficulty of the terrain. Some trails have steep drops one side. Some trails have steps cut into the terrain with reinforcements.

I have no idea whether either of these hikers were familiar with the trails or not. I do however think it is a good idea to put the degree of difficulty on each trail at the trailhead. On some of the maps there is an indication of which trails are not suitable for children, but does that mean they would also be unsuitable for an older hiker?

Foothills Park is one of my regular hiking spots. I am familiar with many of the trails and at times some of them do seem to need some work done on them. In fact there is a trail closed at present for work and maintenance.

I think it might be time to put some better indications at the trailheads about the degree of difficulty on these trails. I am fairly familiar with many of the trails, but I would still appreciate a reminder if I decided to use one I only occasionally hike.

I am pleased the outcome of this was so successful.

6 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 11, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Now I know why there was a helicopter hovering near our home. Hope she recovers well. Kudos to whoever called 911.

3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 12, 2016 at 2:18 am

Link to June 11 incident: Web Link

Here's the trail descripton printed on the map --> "Los Trancos Trail: 7.39 miles, 3-4.5 hours. This is the longest trail in the park. It has scenic views and crosses through several plant communities. Strenuous; steep and rugged terrain, rises 985 ft. Trail bed is packed dirt; obstacles include slide area on the back side. Not appropriate for young children."

The slide area as I recall is just downhill from bridge 11.

6 people like this
Posted by pahiker
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2016 at 8:45 am

I haven't been on Los Trancos trail in awhile, but I do remember there were some precarious spots where the trail was worn away and you could easily slip. That trail needs to be maintained more often.

They don't say what trail she was on and where her fall occurred, but I hope the trail gets a good combing over and repair if there are still bad spots.

Kudos to our rescue workers.

25 people like this
Posted by BalancedCarefulConsideration
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

BalancedCarefulConsideration is a registered user.

Congrats to the hiker and her husband. For getting out there. Seriously! I too hope to be hiking at age 85!

13 people like this
Posted by Hiker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:14 am

I've hiked the Los Trancos trail many times, and there are areas along the way where you really have to watch your step or risk sliding down the steep hills and into the poison oak. It's a difficult hike that winds along the creek and then climbs up, up, up to the top of the hill with a spectacular view. The hike down is steep and not easy on the knees.

I first started hiking the Los Trancos trail when I was a kid back in the early 70s. Back then there were actually cement ash receptacles at the rest areas along the trail so that smokers had a safe place to put out their cigarettes.

I stopped hiking the trail alone after reports of mountain lion sightings, although in all my years of hiking the local trails I've never seen one. The only wild animal I ever saw on the trail, besides deer and squirrels, was a bobcat. Surprisingly I never once saw a snake - not even on a hot day.

Foothills Park is a treasure. Although I no longer live in Palo Alto, I hike to the park from the Arastradaro Preserve, another treasure. I'll always have great respect for Palo Alto for having the foresight to preserve the land instead of developing it.

I wish the adventurous 85 year old woman a speedy recovery and many hiking adventures ahead.

3 people like this
Posted by Faith Brigel
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2016 at 11:39 am

I was up there yesterday to pick up my son from the Palo Alto Recreational Camps. And there must have been about 5-6 fire trucks that drove by us to get up to rescue that hiker. To answer the first poster- I would imagine one of the hiker's companions must have called. You can get coverage up there.
Kudos to our Fire Department! They are so helpful and timely!!

1 person likes this
Posted by so;on
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2016 at 12:07 pm


who pays how much?

what is the cost? seems like individuals show pay all cost of rescue, but maybe no more than 10% of their income per month till reimbursed

such a Palo Alto person may offer their own rescue costs, i see this happening cliff side, yosemite, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Lulu
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:00 am

There are sections where the city needs to install railings as erosion has made portions of the trails narrow and treacherous. Perhaps some erosion control or widening of paths would make them safer.

9 people like this
Posted by Oh Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2016 at 12:27 am

Foothills Park is a natural treasure. It is beautiful and appreciated because it is all natural. I am impressed and awed that 85 year-olds are hiking the trails at the park. I too, hope to do the same at that age.

Please let's not destroy this beautiful, natural setting by erecting metal and concrete railings and verbose signage regarding the trails. Please let us all be responsible for our own judgment, and if the trail gets uncomfortably steep or narrow, turn around and go back!

Best wishes to the injured hiker for a full recovery!

Accidents can happen anywhere, and I bet this hiker would not want to impinge on the beauty and serenity of Foothills Park due to her unfortunate fall.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Browsing Facebook/PAopenspace I discovered that Los Trancos Trail is currently closed for bridge and trail work, specifically the back section west of the ridge. An initial closure was July 22 to Aug 7. Current closure is Aug 12 to Sep 1. An educated guess would predict another closure in the fall.

I suppose it's much easier and cheaper to post on Facebook than to wrestle with editing the City of Palo Alto website. Nothing at all about these closures on our official parks pages, and I've found no direction there to the Facebook link.

At least our City's Police and Fire webpages do provide links to their areas on Twitter, Nextdoor, Instagram, Nixle, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr etc, though it can be difficult to navigate through advertisements and log-on prompts.

Many people abhor Facebook, but looks like all timely information appears there somewhere if you know where to look for it. Twitter is even quicker on breaking news. I suggest bookmarking the Police and Fire twitter pages if you haven't already. The Fire Dept tweeted photos of this rescue incident at 12:58pm, almost realtime. Comments there provide further info.

Like this comment
Posted by hiker
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:58 pm

I've hiked Los Trancos trail every few weeks for the past 1.5 years. It's a strenuous hike but not particularly hazardous. I am regularly passed by trail runners who keep a pace twice mine, and my average speed on this trail is about 20 minutes per mile.

Los Trancos trail deserves the usual care, attention and respect from hikers that wilderness trails in rugged terrain deserve. The park map makes that clear. Don't go hiking without it until you know the trails well.

Los Trancos trail has been well maintained. It is in much better shape than it was in the 90's when I first hiked it. The 'slide area' the map warns about, for example, used to be quite treacherous but had been recut sometime before I rediscovered this trail last year. In the spring fallen trees were a frequent challenge, but the city crews usually had them cleared by my next visit 1-3 weeks later. I chatted with a city worker I recognized from work in my neighborhood, and he said the drought-stricken trees had been keeping them pretty busy this year.

The part of the trail where our intrepid 85 year-old hiker slipped off the edge had been graded by a small Bobcat tractor earlier in the year. It was still in good shape. The trail has been intermittently closed this summer for additional maintenance -- I presume in reaction to the incident reported in this news article.

I was hiking the trail the day she fell. Two gentlemen I met as I neared bridge 9 alerted me that a woman had fallen and that people were with her and on 911. When I reached them, I saw a man at the bottom of the grade beside the creek tending the fallen hiker and a small group on the trail, one of whom was on a cell phone with the 911 dispatcher. That section of the trail along the creek has reasonably good reception.

Two weeks ago, 9/3, I was disappointed to find that the closure had been posted to end 9/1 had been extended through 9/16. The ranger at the gate told me the city inspector wasn't yet satisfied, so they had more work to do. I'm hoping I'll find it open this weekend.

The creek section of the trail is a wonderful treat with cascades and even a ~12' waterfall at mile 4 near bridge 12, which has been flowing every time I've passed it despite the drought.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2016 at 11:11 pm

Posted at Facebook/PAopenspace on Sept 12: "The partial trail closure of Foothills Park's Los Trancos trail has to be extended again to September 23rd (sorry about this). It will take another week to complete this work before it is safe for hikers to enjoy. It will be well worth the wait."

Up there this afternoon I saw some signage edited to say Sept 25th. Creeping delays. Going counterclockwise, I took a left at the ridge onto Trappers Fire Road and rejoined Los Trancos Trail at the Kay & David bench. I was pleased to see removal of the overgrown foliage in front of the bench, allowing the intended panoramic view from that 1700-ft elevation. Very nice rest spot. Gorgeous blue sky. Bit hazy toward the horizon, but Mt Tam and Mt Diablo well defined. San Francisco buildings visible without binoculars. Goodyear blimp circling Stanford Stadium. Looking forward to seeing the trail improvements.

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