By Nur Shelton
Spring has officially arrived in the Bay, and with its welcome warmth comes glowing green grass, longer days and plenty of alien demon caterpillars. The taste of summer is on our tongues, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been feeling the need to get outside and soak up all this beautiful weather. Some of the highlights of the springtime for me have always been the sunsets. Whether it’s sharing a moment with that special someone, a contemplative solo adventure in the evening or simply a quest for the best view, there’s something magical about catching the fleeting winks of the day as the sky erupts in new colors every minute. So, over my short two quarters on the Farm, I’ve tasked myself with finding the best sunset spots that Stanford has to offer.
1. Lake Lag
Perhaps the most romantic stop on our journey, Lake Lag on a spring evening is a sight to behold. If you can get past the swarms of mosquitoes, there are plenty of spots along the perimeter of the “lake” for sunset-viewing. My personal favorite is a tree on the eastern side that seems as if it invites visitors to come sit and take a break from their busy lives. The clear view to the west gives a perfect reflection of the sunset in what’s left of the water.
If you’re looking for a more secluded spot, turn left and follow the path around the lake until you find a trail jutting off to the right. You’ll come to an open grassy area far removed from any roads or CS majors. From here, the sun sets in a gap between trees on the far side of the lake.
2. The Dish
This might be the most well-known destination on the tour, judging from the flocks of tourists and local joggers flooding the Dish trails at all hours of the day. Anyone who’s read the sign at the entrance knows that the trails technically close just before sunset — at 7:30. However, you can always open the gate from the inside, so don’t worry about getting locked in. Just try not to get caught if you stay too late.
From the top of the trail that begins near Lake Lag, sunset-seekers can get a panoramic view from the northeast to the southwest, and the purple light on the East Bay Hills just before sunset is not to be missed. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, and as the light disappears over the Santa Cruz Mountains, you escape from the metropolitan life of the Silicon Valley, if only for a moment.
3. The Student Observatory
Another location that closes before sunset, the Observatory nonetheless offers a sublime panoramic view of the Bay. It’s similar to the one at the Dish, but more secluded, and if you plan ahead, you can arguably get a more spectacular view of the East Bay Hills.
At the intersection of Junipero Serra Boulevard and Campus Drive, head up Links Road and take a left at the first gate you see. You can also head up to the end of Links Road and turn left on Vista Lane; both routes will take you to a view that rivals the taste of a Stern burrito bowl in week 1 of fall quarter. This area is also patrolled now and then, so get ready to hit the dirt or talk your way out of a sticky situation if you want to risk being up there after dark.
4. Barnum Tower in the Law School
If you’re feeling less adventurous and don’t want to make the trek into the hills, this East Campus spot offers a picturesque scene at dusk. Among the ivy-covered arches and glowing green trees near the Law School Café, the quick climb to the top of Barnum Tower ends at an overlook facing the west. While it lacks the outdoorsy feel that the first three sites possess, it’s the perfect spot to simultaneously applaud and laugh at the struggles of the passing law students far below.
5. McMurtry Roof
This is a fun one. Located on the far reaches of Stanford’s campus, the McMurtry Building is a goldmine for architects, artists and avid roof-climbers like me. Once you pass the trial of the 30,000 stairs up to the top, you’re met with an incredible view of campus to the east and the sun setting over the medical school to the west. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, the slanted roofs on either side of the terrace are climbable, leading to an even more spectacular 360-degree vista. This is frowned upon, however, so plan your mission when there aren’t any snitches on the roof to rat you out.
Serra Mall between the Oval and Main Quad
With Palm Drive to your right and the picturesque architecture of Main Quad to your left, biking west on Serra Mall at sunset is a real spring quarter vibe.
Koret-Taube Conference Center
The tower at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research offers a great view of the fading light on the Stanford foothills.
As one of the highest points on campus, this hill above Lake Lag where CCRMA stands presents a great vista of the East Bay Hills, perfect for the few minutes just before sunset.
Contact Nur Shelton at nurs18 ‘at’ stanford.edu if you have any more great sunset spots to recommend.