Have you tried to hug a giant redwood tree? No? Definitely add this to your bucket list and head on over to Portola Redwoods CA State Park! I am not sure why we continue to be surprised by all the open space in and around the bay area but we are. We feel so lucky to be able to experience nature as it was hundreds of years ago and so close to home! Well, sort of. Portola Redwoods was a 2 hour trek from home but it was very worth it!
We started the day off early driving through the foggy city of San Francisco, down past Half Moon Bay to La Honda. Trust your maps as it guides you on roads winding through the mountains. The drive is gorgeous and when the fog lifts you can see for miles across canyons to the ocean (experienced on our way home). The hubs and I definitely want to explore more of this area! The park rangers here were super friendly and the camp host helped us find the starting point. Check out the hike details here. Do make sure and pay attention to the signs. We passed the first one and ended up at a dead end with a gigantic redwood. It was pretty great but added about a half mile ‘oops’ onto the hike.
If you see this tree, turn around and go up the path you passed on the way out to this lovely old man.
The climb from here starts off sort of steep but not to worry, the switchbacks are easy and you don’t even feel like you are climbing. When we went there were only 1 other set of hikers. They passed us up since we were taking in all the beauty along the way. It is so incredibly quiet and peaceful in this forest! We just kept stopping in awe of the lush undergrowth and how many healthy trees we were surrounded by. The fog never truly lifted above the forest so I can understand why the fog loving redwoods were so healthy.
Once you get to the 5 way intersection make sure to take the correct path with the sign that cautions you about a strenuous 7 mile round trip and to allow enough time to return before dusk. It really is strenuous in parts and I really wouldn’t want to be doing it in the dark. From here the trail is easy going for a while, then it narrows a bit and you see a canyon with a creek below. It just opens up and shows you that you are just a little person in a big forest and it could easily swallow you whole. Not really, someone would find you first. 🙂 As we were hiking along we came across a little path that led down to an old car wreck. Apparently there was a road there a loooong time ago and they just decided to leave this car here to rot and for us to have something to talk about on our hike up the hill. I took a few pics and when we got home sent them off to my brother to see what type of car it was. He came back with it being a Buick, probably a 1941 sedanette. Interesting and odd at the same time but it gave us something else to look at other than all the beautiful trees.
After the car wreck, the trail climbs more steadily through a clearing then it tightens up and you have to dance around poison oak trying to grab you from all sides. Winding around a corner the forest changes and there are more Manzanitas than firs or redwoods and looks like there was once a fire. From there the trail descends quickly through more poison oak and various other plants trying to grab on and hitch a ride. The hubs and I slow down through this stuff to make sure we don’t slip and fall into the poison oak. Actually, I slow down because I am the one that usually falls and he hikes behind me so coincidentally we both slow down 😉 . As you head down, remember you have to climb back up this to get back out of the canyon. It will be ok…promise. If I was able to do it so can you!
Now that you are in Peter’s Creek Canyon be prepared to strain your neck to see the tops of the trees. When we were there water was just barely flowing through the creek but it did still have enough water to give us the soothing sound of water gurgling through the forest. The trees down here must have been too difficult to cut down in the late 1800’s and were left to age gracefully in this protected canyon. The ferns, the clovers, the trees, everything was bright green and so happy. We followed the path for Peter’s Creek Loop and met another giant along the way. He was so old and so majestic I just had to go up and give him a big hug! After you see him, dip down into the creek and cross it via the larger rocks popping up out of the water and head up on the trail on the other side. It’s a short but extremely scenic loop. This is the cherry on top and what makes this long strenuous hike worth it! Take your time and enjoy being among these old trees and take in what they have seen in their lifetime. It’s like being surrounded by a bunch of elders that are there to protect you from all the stress of life that you might ever have. I feel so good and always get recharged when we are in the forest. Other than the ocean, this is my happy place.
Remember this happy place as you begin your ascent out of the canyon. It is brutal and you are climbing up and over poison oak and dodging branches coming out at you…just remember why you are here and what motivates you.
We finally ran into the other hikers we had seen earlier…apparently they got really lost and then still headed toward the canyon to complete the hike. Crazy girls! We told them it was all worth it so they kept going. My back tightened up at mile 10, my feet yelled at me at mile 11 an at mile 12…the car was in sight. It was a long, grueling hike but it was in 95% shade and nice and cool from the fog and water.
$10 parking fee, flushing toilets at the ranger station, poison oak and mosquitoes so take precautions, we did 12.2 miles because of our oops, 2,125 elevation gain, strenuous to get out of the canyon! There’s no food or gas around the area so make sure you have a full tank of gas and maybe take a picnic.