San Francisco Bay Area has a lot to offer when you think about hiking. Salt ponds of the bay, rolling hills just above the valley floor, rugged canyons and peaks, crisp air of coastal cliff walks, and I just started. The redwood groves in the Bay Area region are the most accessible. You don’t need to drive all the way north of the state to be surrounded by the giants.
The majority of tourists used to visit Muir Woods as the closest place to San Francisco. Though now you need a reservation (and wait when it will be opened, and how it would work post-COVID).
However, there are less popular but still extraordinarily photogenic and attractive groves all around the Peninsula.
Sanborn County Park. Todd Creek Grove
My latest found. The quit popular South Bay park has a lot of trails. But this grove that is closer to Skyline Blvd than to the park headquarters is a showstopper. The small forest could be reached via San Andreas Trail to Sanborn Trail towards Skyline Blvd. After the challenging climb up to 2,700 ft elevation, the grove is the best thing that could happen with any hiker. It is only about a quarter-mile long, but the ravine and old stumps add more reasons to explore this part of the woods.
Pescadero Creek County Park. Heritage Grove
One of the most accessible groves in the area, Heritage Grove, is a fantastic destination. There are two trails that you should explore – one for lower, another for the upper and younger part. The paths both combine to less than a mile.
The grove could be reached from small roadside parking on Alpine Road. Though the road is scenic itself, it’s narrow and windy.
Portola Redwoods State Park. Peters Creek Trail
My favorite long hike in Peninsula. If you have a full day and feel yourself to a challenge – go for it.
I wrote about the hike here.
The trail is better made on a cold grey day during or right after the wet season (though it will be very muddy in places).
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The Redwood Grove Loop Trail
Another very accessible grove. And quite known. Expect to see almost a full parking lot most of the days. Also, this adventure could be combined with a train ride at the Roaring Camps that are just across the parking lot.
Memorial County Park
And now to the place where I took my favorite photos. Actually, it’s more of a campground (and a good one though I believe still under the renovations) than a park. However, the trails that cross and circle the campground groups are stunning. There is a small natural creek to swim on Summer day, and expect to see foliage early in November.
To find solitude and enjoy trees, visit in winter or very early in the morning. Wurr Flat and Sequoia trails are beautiful, both on the other side of the creek from the campground. Notice, you will not be able to cross a stream after the heavy rains.
Big Basin State Park
The most known and famous redwood state park in the area. Though some visits for waterfalls or backpacking to the ocean, most are here to explore old redwood groves.
If you are not up for a hike, explore short and level Redwood Loop (only 0.6 miles). If you want to stretch your legs, venture into longer the Sunset-Skyline short loop that starts from headquarters follows Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and dips into groves of Middle Ridge. Crossing Middle Ridge again, the trail descends to Opal Creek and goes through impressive redwoods before closing the loop.
Info and links
- Before driving to the park, visit its page to check if it’s open, does it require the reservation and what is the time when it’s open
- On the trails, please follow social distancing guidelines. Big Basin is the most popular park in this post, and you will see a lot of hikers on the trail. Respect the distance and allow them to pass you safely.
- Of course, stay all-time on the trail. Off-trail hike damages fragile soil.
- Even though the trails are shaded, but could be hot at summer midday.
- The best light for photography is early morning or during the overcast day. Deep shadows create a big contrast most of the time.