hikers

How to get a permit | When you need a permit | Why we require permits

COVID-19 Permit Restrictions

Permits are currently available for daytime permit parkingsmall ceremoniescamping, fieldwork and fire reduction work ONLY.

In compliance with county health orders on social distancing all other activity permits are currently suspended.

Some activities on Midpen open space preserves require a use permit. The following information identifies activities requiring a permit, explains why such permits are necessary, and describes the permit process.

How do I get a permit?

  • Midpen offers an online application system for most permits. All permit applicants should allow a minimum of 2 working days for permit processing.
  • general use permit applies in most cases; however, please review the information below before submitting an application.
  • Permit fees are only assessed for camping at Monte Bello Black Mountain Backpack Camp, film/photography, and for large groups/events (50 or more people). No fees are assessed for any of the other activity permits.

When do you need a Permit?

  • general access permit is required for any activity or event that:
    • may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR
    • would restrict the use of any part of Midpen lands by members of the public; OR
    • requests or requires a fee be paid or a donation made for participation. This includes events where the fee is in the form of a mandatory purchase, such as a t-shirt.
  • large group/event permit is required for any event attended by 50 or more people.
  • Additionally, regardless of the number of people in the party, permits are required for certain activities at preserves including, but not limited to, those listed below:
Access to La Honda Creek Preserve

Upper La Honda (Allen Road Entrance)

  • Permits (no fee) are issued for single-day use for hiking only.
  • Permit access to this section of the preserve is via the Allen Road locked gate only.
  • Drive-in access via car is the only allowed means of access.
  • No parking is allowed outside the gate (private property).
  • There is NO connection to the lower La Honda area from this entrance

Lower La Honda

  • Hiking access to this part of the preserve is via the Sears Ranch Road parking lot. Permits are not required unless visitation falls under our general permit requirements.
  • Permits (no fee) are required for equestrian parking at the Event Center.
  • Equestrian access to this preserve is via the Event Center locked gate only.
  • There is NO connection to the upper La Honda area from this entrance

Apply for a General Access Permit

After-Hours Astronomy

A no-fee permit is required for after-hours use of the Monte Bello Preserve parking lot for astronomical viewing. The parking lot is open for permit-only parking from dusk to 2:00 a.m.

  • The term "after hours" is defined as one-half hour after official sunset to official sunrise the following day. The preserves are closed to the public during this time.
  • No use of surrounding trails is allowed, and camping is prohibited.
  • Fires and camp stoves of any type are prohibited.

Apply for an After-Hours Astronomy Permit

Camping at Black Mountain Backpack Camp

The Black Mountain Backpack Camp is Midpen's only campsite. The camp is a 1.5-mile hike from Page Mill Road and includes a 500-foot uphill climb from the parking lot. A permit is required, and the fee is $2 per night per camper payable by an online invoice emailed to you once the application is received and space is confirmed.

Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Because the designated campsites fill up quickly, we encourage campers to check campsite availability before submitting a permit application. Please note that online availability does NOT guarantee a permit. Generally, applications should be submitted at least one week in advance. Reservations are available for one- or two-night stays throughout the year.

  • Reservations are limited to groups of no more than 6 individuals. Only ONE household allowed per group.
  • Common touch areas such as restrooms and water fountains must be sanitized between each use. You must bring your own sanitizer. 
  • Overnight parking is only allowed in the Monte Bello lot and is BY PERMIT ONLY.
  • There are five campsites: four with a maximum capacity of 4 and one with a maximum capacity of 6.
  • Campers must arrive at campsite after 2:00 p.m. and BEFORE SUNSET. The surrounding preserve area is closed a half-hour after sunset. All campers must remain inside the campground until sunrise.
  • Campers must vacate campsite by 12:00 p.m.
  • Stay on designated trails. Visitors must camp in designated campsites only.
  • Cook stoves are to be used in designated areas only. NO CAMPFIRES!
  • Please carry out everything you bring in, including refuse. The water is non-potable. Boil or filter before using.
  • Bicyclists must wear a helmet.
  • Dogs are prohibited.
  • Radios or loud activities are prohibited.
  • Firearms or weapons of any kind are prohibited.
  • No one under 18 years old may camp on any Midpen preserve, except when:
    a) Accompanied by a parent or guardian; or
    b) Part of a group supervised by at least one adult, each responsible for ten or fewer juveniles; or
    c) The juvenile is an emancipated minor.

Apply for a Camping Permit

Defensible Space for Fire Safety
  • The Defensible Space Permit Program that allows neighbors whose homes are located within 100 feet of District boundaries to increase their fire safety by reducing vegetation on adjacent Midpen preserves once they have treated their own land.

Apply for a Defensible Space Permit

Educational Field Trips
  • Organized educational activities of any size visiting a preserve should apply for a general access permit.

Apply for a General Access Permit

Fieldwork and Research

Midpen manages land preserves to protect and restore the natural environment. Each year, many people request permission to conduct fieldwork on the preserves that supports science, conservation, restoration, or the monitoring of environmental quality. When such activities are compatible with our mission, we provide limited permission to conduct fieldwork on the preserves.

Due to ongoing COVID related restrictions, not all permit requests may be approved at this time. Permit requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may be approved based on research priority, site access and COVID related restrictions. Please allow at least 4 weeks for review.

  • Usually the fieldwork relates to one of the following topics: conservation biology, natural resource management, biology, environmental sciences, ecology, or related studies.
  • Successful permit applicants are expected to make their findings accessible to the public and Midpen through reports, publications, and/or presentations.
  • Applicants must demonstrate a well-constructed research/project proposal, knowledge of the topic, a schedule for reporting, and a thorough plan to avoid potential adverse impacts to the environment that could be caused by the fieldwork
  • Please allow a minimum of four weeks for permit review.

Apply for a Fieldwork/Research Permit

Filming and Photography
  • Permits are required for both still and motion photography.
  • Parking is extremely limited, and public vehicles generally are not permitted on our preserves.
  • Drones are not permitted on Midpen preserves.
  • Fees may apply.
  • Please allow a minimum of two weeks for permit approval and processing.

Apply for a Filming Permit

Flying remote control gliders at Windy Hill Preserve
  • A permit is required to fly a remote control glider at Windy Hill.
  • Motorized planes and helicopters are NOT allowed.
  • Permit applications should be submitted at least two business days in advance of the permit date requested. Applications submitted less than two business days in advance may be given consideration but cannot be guaranteed to be processed in time for the requested permit date.

Apply for a General Access Permit

Hang gliding and paragliding at Windy Hill Preserve
  • An advanced-rated pilot’s license along with membership in the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Inc. is required.
  • Membership in Windy Hill Skyriders is required.
  • For more information visit the Windy Hill Skyriders website
Parking at El Sereno Preserve - Overlook Drive parking lot
  • A permit is required to park in this lot.
  • Permit applications should be submitted at least two business days in advance of the permit date requested. Applications submitted less than two business days in advance may be given consideration but cannot be guaranteed to be processed in time for the requested permit date.
  • The permit is valid for a specific date.
  • Permits will be issued on a first come, first served basis, with a maximum of six permits issued per day and 30 permits issued per month.

Apply for a General Access Permit

Parking at Monte Bello Preserve - Waterwheel Creek parking lot
  • A permit is required to park in this lot.
  • Permit applications should be submitted at least two business days in advance of the permit date requested. Applications submitted less than two business days in advance may be given consideration but cannot be guaranteed to be processed in time for the requested permit date.
  • The permit is valid for a specific date.

Apply for a General Access Permit

Running/exercise groups

A no-fee permit is required for all groups planning to meet in a preserve to run or exercise together, whether formally organized or not.

  • Schools and other organized groups are encouraged to submit specific dates they wish to be in the preserve(s) to avoid reaching the weekday capacity cut-offs.
  • To avoid overcrowding at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, permits are not issued for weekend days and holidays. Weekend permits may be available for other preserves including Fremont Older, St. Joseph’s Hill, Purisima Creek Redwoods, and Skyline Ridge.
  • Politeness and safety are to take precedence over the clocked time of the run.
  • Cones or flags may be used to mark trails. Do not use paint, chalk, flour, or anything similar for marking (dangerous for wildlife).
  • Do not attach signs to signs, fences, or trees.
  • Permittee is responsible for own first-aid.
  • Permittee is responsible for site clean-up and removal of all trail markings and/or litter immediately after the practice.
  • Permittee shall comply with all federal, state, local, and Midpen laws, regulations, and ordinances.

Apply for a Running/Exercise Group Permit

Scattering of cremains
  • Due to COVID Restrictions participation is currently limited to less than 20 people from no more than THREE households.
  • Any person scattering cremains on Midpen land shall possess and present upon request their valid permit when scattering cremains.
  • The scattering of cremains is prohibited: within 1,000 feet of any residence or dwelling, within 500 feet of any creek, stream, or other body of water, or within 50 feet of any road or trail.
  • Cremains must be scattered, must not be left in a pile, and must not be readily visible to the public.
  • No containers for the cremains, identification tags, vases, flowerpots, other associated non-organic materials, or non-native plants, may be left at the site.
  • No memorial, plaque, or other site marker may be left at the site.

Apply for a Ceremonies Permit

Weddings/Ceremonies
  • Due to COVID Restrictions participation is currently limited to less than 20 people from no more than THREE households. Additionally, all participants must leave the area immediately after the ceremony; no receptions.
  • All weddings/ceremonies, regardless of size, require a permit.
  • Some Midpen preserves offer beautiful vistas that may be suitable for an outdoor wedding or ceremony.
  • Limitations on parking and the need for all participants to hike into the location may limit the feasibility of holding a ceremony at one of our preserves.
  • All participants must follow these rules: 
    - Do not impede traffic on the trails, vistas or access to other preserve visitors in any way.
    - No vehicle access into preserve.
    - Please carpool
    - No balloons, decorations, tents or catering 
    - No confetti, birdseed or rice (bubbles are allowed)
  • We recommend that anyone interested in having a ceremony at Midpen review the basic conditions and suggested locations and visit the potential site before requesting a permit.

Apply for a Ceremonies Permit

Group activities are not allowed at the following locations for certain days of the week or for certain times of the year:

  • Bear Creek Redwoods
    Permits are not available for any group or organized activities on weekend days and holidays. Groups are limited to 20 cars; please encourage carpooling.
  • Rancho San Antonio
    Permits are not available for any group or organized activities on weekend days and holidays. 
  • Russian Ridge
    Permits are not available for any group or organized activities on weekend days and holidays during wildflower season (March–July). 
  • Mount Umunhum - Sierra Azul
    Permits are not available for any group or organized activities on weekend days and holidays.

Why do I need a permit?

Midpen's Basic Policy states that "the District will follow a land management policy that provides proper care of open space land, allowing public access appropriate to the nature of the land and consistent with ecological values." Accordingly, we encourage low-intensity recreation such as hiking, nature study, and picnicking.

Midpen will consider requests for short-term use of lands or facilities for such purposes as runs, equestrian events, ceremonies, or similar activities. To protect natural resources and provide for the safety of preserve visitors, a special use permit will be required.

For any permit request, Midpen wants to ensure that:

  • The activity will not have an adverse impact on the ecological or historical character of Midpen land.
  • Rangers are available in case of emergencies.
  • The time, place and size of the event will not disrupt or interfere with the normal use of the site by other preserve visitors.
  • Scheduling conflicts are avoided.

Download District Basic Policy

Download District Land Use Regulations

Redmaid

General Access Permit

General Access Permits are required for group activities, some specific activities and Midpen limited access preserves.
Purple lupine blooming alongside a trail.

Ceremonies Permit

All weddings, ceremonies or scattering of cremains, regardless of size, require a permit.
Black Mountain Campground

Camping

The Black Mountain Backpack Camp at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is the only campsite on District lands.
cocoon nebula

After-hours Astronomy Permit

A no-fee permit is required for after-hours use of the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve parking lot for astronomical viewing. The parking lot is open for permit-only parking from dusk to 2:00 a.m.
large group

Large Group/Event Permit Info

Required for all events which may be attended by 50 or more people.
photographer

Filming/Still Photography Permit

Permits are required for both still and motion photography.
runner

Running/Workout Permit

A no-fee permit is required for all groups planning to meet in a preserve to run or exercise together, whether formally organized or not.
crew working

Neighbor Defensible Space Permit

Neighbors can apply here for a free permit allowing you to reduce vegetation on Midpen land, within 100 feet of occupied structures, to create defensible space around your home.
volunteer conducting research

Fieldwork Permit

Midpen provides limited permission to conduct fieldwork on the preserves.