Palo Alto (pronounced /ˌpæloʊˈæltoʊ/, from Spanish: palo: "stick" (or "branch") and alto: "high") is a California charter city located in the northwest corner of Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA. It is named after a tree called El Palo Alto. The city includes portions of Stanford University and is headquarters to a number of Silicon Valley high-technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, VMware and Facebook. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 58,598 residents.
Earliest recorded history stems from 1769, when Gaspar de Portolà noted an Ohlone settlement. This remains an area of known Indian mounds. A plaque is erected at Middlefield Road and Embarcadero Road to commemorate this area.
The city got its name from a tall tree, El Palo Alto, by the banks of the San Francisquito Creek bordering Menlo Park. You can still find half of this tree (the other half was destroyed when the creek flooded) along the foot bridge on Alma Street. A plaque recounts the story of a 63 man, 200 horse expedition from San Diego to Monterey from November 7–11, 1769. The group overshot and reached the San Francisco Bay instead. Thinking the bay was too wide to cross, the group decided to turn around near 'el palo alto.'