Woods Loop, Huddart County Park,
San Mateo County Parks,
San Mateo County
In brief:
4.5 mile loop through a forest a short distance from Woodside.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.4 mile loop hike is easy, with about 800 feet in elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 550 to 2000 feet. The featured hike begins near 760 feet, climbs to about 1480 feet, descends to 640 feet, then climbs back to the trailhead.

Mostly shaded.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit Woodside Road (CA 84). Drive west about 1.5 miles, and turn right onto Kings Mountain Road. Drive about 2 miles to the park entrance on the right side of the road. Once past the entrance kiosk, follow the signs for the Miwok Group Area: at the stop sign go straight, then stay straight (left) at the turnoff for the Werder and Zwierlein Areas, then bear left (you can't go straight), pass the Madrone Area, and turn right onto the road around the Miwok Area. Park by the signed entrance to the Dean Trail (on the right side of the road). If you get to the signed trailhead to Archery Fire Road, you've gone too far, but you can park there and walk back down the road to the trailhead.

Street address (for in-transit navigation):
1100 Kings Mountain Road, Woodside, CA 94062

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3726'18.97"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and stores back in Woodside. Other than youth group camps, there is no camping in the park.

Trailhead details:
Parking in clusters on the sides of the park road. May be crowded on weekends and holidays. Entrance fee of $6 charged; self-register if entrance kiosk is unattended. Maps available at the entrance kiosk (there's a little box attached to the kiosk), or at the information signboard on the right side of the park road just past the ranger station. Restrooms a few steps from the trailhead, and in a few other places throughout the park. Telephone and drinking water at the Chickadee Trailhead, just past the entrance kiosk, on the right. There is no direct public transportation to the park.

Most trails are open to equestrians and hikers only. A few are designated hiking only. No bikes on trails. No dogs permitted. Park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk.

The Official Story:
CSMP's Huddart page.
Park office 650-851-1210

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
CSMP's Huddart map.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Huddart hike.
Trail Map of the Central Peninsula, by the Trail Center (order this map from Amazon.com) is my favorite Huddart map.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com)
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and park descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 51 photos from the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

It's hard not to compare Huddart County Park to its sister park, Wunderlich. Both are managed by San Mateo County, and are only a few miles apart. Both are situated on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and feature slopes forested with madrone, Douglas fir, live oaks, and redwood. At each park a hiker can trek from trailheads all the way up to Skyline Boulevard. But there the similarities end. Wunderlich is the shy, reserved sister, while Huddart is the party girl. Wunderlich has no real facilities beyond a parking lot and portable toilet, while Huddart is crammed with picnic areas, a day camp, a group camp, and an archery range. Wunderlich is a quiet park where you may encounter few other hikers, while Huddart is always busy with people. Wunderlich is carefully maintained and respectfully used, while parts of Huddart are maligned with shortcuts, garbage, and overused trails. Dean Trail
     Huddart County Park has many options for long hikes, even for treks out of the park into surrounding parklands. Phleger Estate, managed by the GGNRA, is right next-door to the north, while Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve (part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District) hangs off the other side of Skyline Boulevard to the west. The Bay Area Ridge Trail runs through Huddart and after passing though private land via an easement, heads south to Wunderlich Park. Crystal Springs Trail leaves Huddart and travels all the way to Edgewood County Park, crossing under 280 along the way. For loop hikes inside the park, the eastern portion of Huddart is heavily used. Dean Trail, Chinquapin Trail, and Crystal Springs Trail (west of Toyon Group Camp) are my favorites. Unfortunately Chinquapin doesn't Redwoods on Dean Trailconnect with Crystal Springs, necessitating a long climb on Chinquapin to Summit Springs Fire Road, and then to Crystal Springs Trail. The Archery Fire Road seems a natural choice for a loop, but I found this trail to be particularly unlovely and would go out of my way not to hike it again.
     I am often drawn to Huddart during the summer, when the shaded canyons provide a cool respite from soaring temperatures, but the park is less crowded in spring, autumn, and winter.
     For the featured hike, start at one of the parking areas near the Miwok Area. The signed entrance to Dean Trail is visible off the north side of the area; take Dean Trail to the left, toward Crystal Springs Trail. The path, open to equestrians and hikers only, gently winds uphill through madrone, tanoak, and redwood, with some wild rose, poison oak, hazelnut, and California coffeeberry in the understory. In spring, look for hound's tongue, iris, and tiny white violets, charmingly named western-heart's ease. Yerba buena is a common ground cover, bearing discrete little flowers in early summer. After just about 0.2 mile, Dean Trail meets Archery Fire Road at a signed junction. Continue straight on Dean Trail (the fire road is an optional shortcut, but it is not as pretty as the trail).
      Running close toDean Trail  Kings Mountain Road, this section of the trail is a bit noisy, but lovely, as it climbs easily through a heavily shaded forest. Some giant trees felled in the past have opened up clear spaces, enabling sunlight to filter down to the ground. The trail makes a sharp turn away from Kings Mountain Road, then crosses Archery Fire Road again at a signed junction at about 0.6 mile. Continue straight on Dean Trail.
      It's common to see deer in this part of the park. Hiking in spring after Easter, you may see newly born fawns. I usually become aware of deer as they crash through the underbrush, running away from me, but on one Huddart hike I came upon a mother deer with her new baby, and watched from a distance as they walked with slow deliberation silently away. These slow careful movements reminded me of tai chi. This part of Huddart is quiet, although the faint roar of traffic noise drifts all the way from Interstate Crystal Springs Trail280, infiltrating the stillness. At about 0.8 mile, Dean Trail meets Chinquapin Trail at a signed junction. (Chinquapin is an option for extending this hike: take Chinquapin uphill to Summit Springs Fire Road, then take Crystal Springs Trail and resume the featured hike.) Remain straight on Dean Trail.
     The path descends a bit, to sidle along the edge of McGarvey Gulch. In July look on the left side of the trail for purple flowered harebell and helleborine, an inconspicuous orchid. A gate restricts equestrian access during rainy months. Trees that have fallen lay across the creek like a bunch of pick-up-sticks. Dean Trail dips down to cross McGarvey Gulch Creek on a bridge, where a park sign proclaims the elevation here to be 1380 feet. The trail ascends slightly, and leaves then dense redwood forest for a while, contouring across a sloping hillside. Tanoak and madrone dominate the shoulders of the canyon, and huckleberry bushes thrive in the understory. At about 1.5 miles, Dean Trail ends at a signed junction with Crystal Springs Trail. Stay to the right (toward Toyon Group Camp) on Crystal Springs Trail.
     Crystal Crystal Springs TrailSprings Trail, open to hikers and equestrians only, switchbacks gently downhill through mixed woodland. You may not notice madrone trees among the tanoak and redwoods, but in the spring their blossoms litter the trail like wedding confetti. The trail bends left and passes under a power line, all the while easily descending. After crossing a seasonal creek, Crystal Springs Trail meets Toyon Road (shown on the park map as Campground Trail) at about 2.4 miles at a signed junction. (Toyon Road is an option for a shorter hike. Turn right at this junction, remain straight at the junction with Canyon Trail, and then turn right at the junction with Dean Trail.) Cross the wide fire road and remain on Crystal Springs Trail.
      Madrone and tanoak line the trail along with some redwood, Douglas fir, and coffeeberry. As Crystal Springs Trail drops into a canyon, two spur paths depart off to the left, at about 2.6 and 2.7 miles, heading to Toyon Group Area. Continue to the right on Crystal Springs Trail at each junction.
     A largeAscending on Crystal Springs Trail  boulder sits beside the trail on the left, with a small flat rock next to it -- a fine rest bench. Crystal Springs Trail crosses through two sunny pockets of manzanita, pitcher sage, live oaks, and toyon, then returns to the woods. In spring, you may see hound's tongue, starflower, and western heart's ease. At about 3.1 miles, Canyon Trail sets out at a signed junction. Stay to the left on Crystal Springs Trail. Fences make an occasional appearance along the sides of the trail, a sure sign that you are edging closer to a heavily used area. Chaparral Trail begins at a signed junction at about 3.36 miles. Continue to the right on Crystal Springs Trail.
     Creambush and California hazelnut accompany redwood and live oaks. You might notice redwood ivy in bloom in late spring or early summer. Crystal Springs Trail crosses McGarvey Gulch Creek via two bridges, and then comes to a signed junction at about 3.5 miles. Richard's Road Trail, which departs to the left, heads north toward Phleger Estate. Turn right to stay on Crystal Springs Trail.
     After curving uphill away from the creek, Crystal Springs Trail switchbacks easily uphill. It's disheartening hiking, though, for hikers taking shortcuts (despite fences that attempt to herd the crowds in an orderly fashion) have eroded the steep hillside, and trailside garbage is not infrequent. Look for thimbleberry bushes on the left side of the path. At about 3.8 miles, Returning on Dean TrailCrystal Springs Trail crests and meets Dean Trail at a signed junction. Turn right onto Dean Trail.
     Dean Trail skirts Werder Picnic Area, on a level and mostly straight route under partial shade. Pitcher sage grows on the right side of the path, under madrone, California bay, and tanoak. Tables in Madrone Picnic Area are visible on the left. At about 4.1 miles, Dean Trail meets Toyon Road (the signpost is on the far side of the road). Cross the street and continue on Dean Trail. The trail remains close to park roads and picnic areas, with plenty of casual paths heading in every direction. At an easy grade, Dean Trail climbs back to the junction at the start of the hike, a few steps from the trailhead.

Total distance: about 4.4 miles
Last hiked: Monday, July 15, 2002