3.6 mile out and back through woods to an open ridge.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.6 mile out and back hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is about
2100 feet. The featured hike descends to about 1200 feet before regaining
lost elevation on the way back to the trailhead.
Mix of shade and sun.
Dirt trails and fire road.
Nice any time.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 92 west. Drive to the junction
with CA 35 (Skyline Boulevard), and turn south. Drive about 4.25 miles,
to the signed parking lot on the right side of the road.
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:
None in the immediate area. No camping.
Large parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at the information
signboard. Wheelchair-accessible pit toilet on site. Pay phone just north
of the trailhead (at the closed store). There is no direct public transportation
to this preserve.
Most trails are multi-use. A few trails are open to hikers only. Dogs are
not permitted in the preserve.
The Official Story:
MROSD field office 650-691-1200
from MROSD (download pdf)
Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions
of hikes, and simple maps.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Purisima
Peninsula Trails, by Rusmore, Spangle, and Crowder, 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 preserve descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
View photos from this
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve's main trailhead on Skyline Boulevard offers the preserve's quickest and easiest
starting point for me, but I realized recently that I visit this northernmost
staging area less frequently than the others. What kept me from beginning
there was the steep initial portion of North Ridge Trail, which makes
for a heart pounding return to the trailhead after a long loop hike. Then
on my last visit I discovered the hiking only path than runs along North
Ridge Trail. It's slightly longer, but gently graded. This path, part
of the Bay Area Ridge Trail segment through Purisima, makes a big difference
if you dislike steep climbs.
Once past the initial drop from the trailhead,
there are a few choices for loop and out-and-back hikes. Harkins Ridge
and Whittemore Gulch make a good 7 mile circuit, but unless you're a glutton
for steep ascents, descend on Harkins Ridge and ascend on Whittemore Gulch.
You can also hike 5.6 miles
on out-and-back North Ridge Trail. With no connecting trails, the last
stretch of North Ridge can be pretty lonely. It's also quite a climb (about
1000 feet) back up to the trailhead from the turn around point at the
end of the trail. The featured hike I describe on this page is somewhat
of a compromise. It traverses the pretty forested and chaparral slopes
of the preserve, allows you to take in the stunning views south, west,
and north, but turns back before the last stretch of North Ridge Trail.
It's a nice hike to take for a picnic on a sunny day.
Begin at the north trailhead and start
downhill on the North Ridge Trail. A cluster of big leaf maples shed
their pretty leaves in autumn a few feet down the wide multi-use trail.
Just past them,the
trail splits at a signed junction. Bear right on the hiking-only path.
The trail squeezes past tall Douglas firs. Ferns flourish in the damp
woods, and look for large clumps of mushrooms in autumn and winter. Switchbacks
keep the descent easy. You may see pink-flowering currant, thimbleberry,
huckleberry, honeysuckle, madrone, and tanoak. Through some breaks in
the trees, on a clear day the view stretches north all the way to Mount
Tamalpais. At about 0.5 mile, the hiking-only path ends at a signed junction
with North Ridge Trail. Turn right onto North Ridge Trail.
The wide trail, open to equestrians and
cyclists as well as hikers, keeps a fairly level course as it meanders
under huge old Douglas firs and tanoaks.Just
before the next junction, there's a grassy spot off the trail to the left
that makes a fine rest or picnic area. A few steps more and you reach
a signed junction at about 1 mile. While North Ridge Trail continues to
the right, Whittemore Gulch Trail is an easier grade. Stay to the left
on Whittemore Gulch Trail (seasonally closed to all but hikers in
the rainy months).
Soon the trail begins to leave the woods.
Whittemore Gulch Trail switchbacks gently downhill through monkeyflower,
coyote brush, and coffeeberry, ducks under a few last Douglas firs, and
emerges into chaparral. In December on this trail I saw a few forget-me-nots
in bloom, way before anything else in the bay area was even thinking of
spring. The shrubby plants of the chaparral community (ceanothus, blue
witch nightshade, coyote brush, California coffeeberry, and monkeyflower)
permit long views west and south. You may be able to pick out Harkins
Ridge Trail to the south, and North Ridge Trail to the west. Look
north for glimpses of Montara Mountain.The
grassy knoll visible downhill to the right off the flat stretch of North
Ridge Trail is the picnic area and turnaround point of this hike. Whittemore
Gulch Trail winds downhill at an easy grade. At about 1.6 miles, you reach
a signed junction. Turn right to take the short connector path to North
After just a few steps, the path ends at
a signed junction with North Ridge Trail. Turn left. The wide multi-use
trail descends through chaparral. Look for a grassy knoll off the trail
to the right. This is a great picnic or rest area, and the turn around
point for the hike. It's a quiet spot with tremendous views to the ocean.
You can extend your walk on the North Ridge Trail, but as you walk a bit
further you'll notice that just past the grassy spot, the trail dips and
then climbs somewhat steeply. When you're ready, retrace your steps
back to the trailhead.
Total distance: about 3.6 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, December 12, 2000