Hikes in Portola Redwoods State Park
1 Jan 2012
Portola Redwoods State Park is a treasure in Santa Cruz Mountains. It is one of my favorite parks in the bay area. The park is relatively quiet, with few hikers. Other redwood parks like Big Basin or Castle Rock are teeming with visitors. Trails in Portola Redwoods are generally shaded by tall trees, sometimes next to creeks. Long, interesting routes are possible by combining trails from two adjacent parks: Pescadero Creek County Park in the west and Long Ridge Open Space Preserve in the east.

Best time to visit: I love to visit redwoods in winters, especially after rains, when creeks flow with water and vegetation looks fresh and green. Generally speaking, trails are walkable even after rains because layers of leaves form a carpet that protects our feet from mud. Redwoods are popular during summers as well because they are cooler than open spaces, providing respite from the sun.

Notes: In Feb 2010, the Visitors Center was closed, no maps were available and the restrooms were also closed due to shortage of funds. So we took maps with ourselves to explore this beautiful park.

Loops around Park HQ

There are many trails near Park HQ. In fact, there are too many intersections!

8.1 miles
1800 ft
Coyote Ridge — Iverson Loop
A lollipop-shaped loop starting at Tarwater Trailhead (free parking) that encircles the park. Goes through Coyote Ridge, Slate Creek, Summit and Iverson trails.

6.2 miles
1500 ft
Coyote Ridge — Slate Creek — Summit — Old Tree
An interesting loop from Park HQ, covering various trails near the park.

8.8 miles
2000 ft
Shaded Loop Around Portola Redwoods
An interesting loop that combines trails from Pescadero Creek County Park in the west.

Slate Creek Trail

Slate Creek Trail is a gorgeous trail heading east toward Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. Depending upon how long we walk along this trail, we get hikes of different lengths.

5.8 miles
700 ft
Slate Creek Trail — Short Route
The shortest hike along Slate Creek Trail is to Slate Creek Trail Camp.

7.3 miles
900 ft
Slate Creek Trail — Medium Route
A longer route that goes beyond Slate Creek Trail Camp, up to the point where the trail turns right and crosses a bridge over Slate Creek.

9.8 miles
1500 ft
Slate Creek Trail — Long Route
An even longer route that climbs up to a ridge to meet Ward Road.

Peters Creek Loop

Peters Creek Loop Trail lies in a relatively remote section of the park. It is a worthy destination that ends in a one-mile loop that crosses the creek twice. In Feb 2010, there are no bridges at either crossing. So we had to wade through the creek.

11.5 miles
1800 ft
Peters Creek Loop
The shortest route to Peters Creek is via an 11-mile hike. The route is pretty awesome. No steep sections.

16.0 miles
2800 ft
Peters Creek Loop — Extended Route
An extension of the route above, with a side trip along Slate Creek Trail, including a climb to a ridge where Slate Creek Trail meets Ward Road.

Tarwater Loop

Tarwater Loop Trail lies in Pescadero Creek County Park, which lies to the west of Portola Redwoods. Routes going through Tarwater Loop Trail may start either at Tarwater Trailhead (free parking) or at Park HQ (paid parking).

7.2 miles
900 ft
Tarwater Loop from Portola Redwoods
Pleasant hike through tall redwoods and vista points.

Butano Ridge

Butano Ridge lies to the south east of Portola Redwoods, inside Pescadero Creek County Park. The ridge is accessible by trails starting at Park HQ.

12.8 miles
2100 ft
Butano Ridge Loop
The shortest possible loop that goes over Butano Ridge and returns to Park HQ.

Hikes from Long Ridge

Long Ridge Open Space Preserve lies to the east of Portola Redwoods. Hikes from Long Ridge are pretty long, dropping down from Highway 35 (Skyline Blvd) to Slate Creek.

15.5 miles
3000 ft
Peter's Creek Loop from Skyline Blvd
A trip to Peters Creek Loop from Long Ridge.

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