Portola Redwoods State Park is frequently forgotten. Its more famous brother, Big Basin State Park, sees way more hikers.
Nestled deep in the redwood-covered Santa Cruz mountains, the park has so many to offer. Peters Creek Loop trail features, probably, the most scenic area, that could compete with northern coastal groves.
The trail is kick ass. It’s longer than typical San Francisco Bay Area trails, more than 11 miles. It has almost 1000 ft elevation change. It’s a whole day trail, even if you’re a good hiker, you would be tired by the end.
There are several scenic sections, and the first one is a service road that winds among old and second grown redwoods for less than a half a mile until it reaches Summit Trail.
Summit Trail climbs past redwoods, then reaches a summit and descends to an intersection with the Slate Creek Trail. Though the trees are not the biggest you will see on the trail, they are lovely. If you feel that this section is too advanced for you, it’s better to stick to this area and explore it. There are also beautiful trees some further away on Bear Creek Trail (first half mile or so).
The further section of Bear Creek Trail is dull. The part of it is overgrown; another part of it passes the bleak woods. The trail goes mostly downhill. Its conditions were terrible in the section of descends: I was glad to have good hiking shoes that stopped me from sliding. For me, it was the most wearying part of the hike (both to and back ways).
However, as soon as you get down into the canyon, you will be surrounded by towering old redwoods. Congratulations, you reached the most beautiful grove and the main attraction on this trail. The path leads down to the Bear Creek, crosses it, and follows it until Peter Creek.
The trail makes a mile-long loop around Peters Creek before returning to Bear Creek again. You will need to cross the creek two times, so plan ahead if the season is rainy.
My favorite part of the Peters Creek Loop, however, was the section along Bear Creek.
When I first crossed it, I didn’t notice the small waterfall on it just off the way. I believe, during the wet season, this place will look amazing!
Links and Info
- Check the official Portola Redwoods State Park page for park news and updates/closures. You need to pay the park entrance fee. However, if you have California Explorer or Golden Poppy Annual passes, you can use it there.
- I used redwoodhikes.com as a reference to this hike. They also have an excellent detailed map.
The map I used on this hike from redwoodhikes.com. It’s a part of the Portola Redwoods and Pescadero Creek trail map from Redwood Hikes Press (fourth edition, 2016)
- There is no cell reception in the park, but you can track your progress and location through downloaded alltrails.com map
- Portola Redwoods connects with a system of trails from Pescadero Creek County Park. You can backpack there. There is a backcountry Slate Creek campground, four hike-and-bike sites at Huckleberry Campground, and the 55 family campsites, one is wheelchair-accessible, and four require a short walk from parking. See the park page for more details.
- See other posts on Portola Redwoods State Park