This 2.9 mile loop is accessible through advance permit only. Visit a
giant redwood, then drop through grassland to a lonely viewpoint looking
west to the ocean.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.9 mile partial loop hike is easy, with about 400 feet in elevation
change. Trailhead elevation is about 2128 feet. The preserve's lowest (trail)
elevation is about 1944 feet; highest elevation is about 2190 feet. Lost
elevation is regained on an ascent.
Mix of shade and sun.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 84. Drive west to the junction
with CA 35 (Skyline Boulevard). Turn right and drive north to Bear Gulch
Road West. Turn left. Drive carefully on this very narrow road, then turn
left onto private Allen Road. Drive to the gate at the end of the road,
then follow the directions from MROSD to enter the preserve.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, store, and restaurants back at the junction of 35 and 84.
Access to this preserve is by permit only (there is no parking on Bear Gulch
Road, Allen Road, or in front of the gate). Call the district office at
650-691-1200 for permit info. With the permit you'll receive a map; bring
it with you because there are no maps in the preserve, and trails are not
marked. No restrooms or drinking water. No parking or entrance fees. No
designated handicapped parking. This preserve is not suitable for wheelchair
users. There is no direct public transportation to this preserve.
No bikes, horses, or dogs are permitted. Open from dawn until one half hour
The Official Story:
La Honda page.
MROSD field office 650-691-1200
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from MROSD (download the pdf).
Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, a description
of a hike, and a simple map.
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Central Peninsula is my
favorite map of the park (order
this map from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve
this book from Amazon.com).
View photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
you've ever dreamed of having a preserve all to yourself, call
MROSD and arrange a visit to La Honda. Since access is by permit only,
and limited permits are issued each day, there's a good chance that when
you show up at the trailhead, you'll find it empty. Although rangers patrol
the trails, and there is an occupied house in the preserve, more than
any other public bay area land you will find solitude.
There are two prominent features at La
Honda, and you can easily visit them both on one hike. A rare old
growth redwood is tucked away in the woods, and at the end of an out-and-back
trail a grassy bluff offers one of the best views on the peninsula.
Honda is in an unusually raw state for an MROSD preserve. You'll find
no trail signs, restrooms, information signboards, or maps, and no bicycles,
horses, or dogs are permitted. Bring
layers of clothing; it may be windy on the trail to the view point.
From the trailhead, a roadside pullout,
walk back toward the gate a few feet. Turn right on an unmarked
wide trail. Redwood, Douglas fir, tanoak, and madrone shade the trail,
and in the understory you might see hound's tongue, starflower, milkmaids,
and forget-me-not in spring. Following a level grade, the trail passes
through an open stretch with manzanita, poison oak, and ceanothus, then
darts back into the woods. At 0.46 mile, the trail emerges into a small
clearing, and meets another trail. Stay to the left.
In spring, the left side of the trail is
engulfed with the bright yellow flowers of invasive broom. At 0.53 mile,
a small, easy-to-miss path begins on the right side of
the trail. Turn right. The trail is easy to follow, but may be
blocked with fallen trees, and covered with leaves and branches. A large
downed tree runs along the trail on the right; look left here and for
the first glimpses of the huge old redwood. Keep walking on the trail,
which curves left and reaches the tree at 0.64 mile. It is an awesome
site. Partially blackened by a fire (from who knows how long ago), it
escaped the logging saws and thrives in a location somewhat sheltered
from the wind and winter storms. When you're ready, retrace your steps
back to the previous junction, turn left, and retrace your steps to the
next junction. Bear left.
Under a partial canopy of tanoak, redwood,
and Douglas fir, you might also see hazelnut. The trail soon leaves the
trees behind and emerges into grassland, near an (occupied) house,
and a few desertedbuildings. At about 1 mile, the dirt trail ends at a junction. Turn
Once past the old farm buildings, the pavement
fades and trail enters grassland. Perhaps it is more correct to say the
trail becomes grassland. The twin ghost tracks of a vehicle drift downhill.
Since this isn't an established, graded trail, the walking is lumpy (the
next day my ankles were sore, which I've never experienced before). On
the left side of the trail, redwood, Douglas fir, and madrone form a border
to the grassland, which features long views west. You might see blue-eyed
grass, California buttercups, checker-bloom, and fiddlenecks in springtime.
At 1.24 miles, a trail splits off to the right. Although it isn't indicated
as such on the official map, other maps show this trail connecting to
another out-and-back trail. (You
could take this trail west, then hike uphill on the other trail, and you'll
end up back at the trailhead.) Stay to the left on the descending trail.
The trail passes through an old fence line,
and draws close to the trees. Suddenly, the grade steepens and the trail
becomes rocky. A few huckleberry shrubs grace the understory. Madrone,
tanoak, and Douglas firs engulf the trail as it descends. In the shade
of deep tree cover, you might see indian warrior, hound's tongue, milkmaids,
and mission bells in spring. The trail steps out into grassland with great
drama. It might be difficult to follow the trail, as a second path veers
off to the right, but cross the grassy flat plateau to the vista point
and obvious end of the trail, where the hill drops sharply south. From
this spot there are unobstructed views south and west.
Hills of other MROSD preserves, including Russian Ridge and Windy Hill,
are visible on a clear day, as is the Butano Range and the ocean. In spring,
the grass is sprinkled with flowers. You might see popcorn flower, California
poppy, blue-eyed grass, checker-bloom, bluedicks, and mule ear sunflower.
If it's not too windy, this is a good place for lunch. I think this is
also a spectacular setting for a marriage proposal.... When you're ready,
retrace your steps back to the junction in front of the house,
at 2.55 miles. Turn left.
The paved road climbs slightly, then begins
to descend. Manzanitas and ceanothus give way to redwoods. The trail emerges
into grassland, and delivers you to the trailhead.
Total distance: 2.88 miles
Last hiked: Monday, April 16, 2001