The San Francisco Bay Area

A guide to the Bay Area's old-growth redwood parks — and a lot of other parks too


California

** Samuel P. Taylor State Park * Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve ** Muir Woods National Monument ** Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve ** Portola Redwoods and Pescadero Creek * Butano State Park *** Big Basin Redwoods State Park * Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park * The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park * Huddart County Park * El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve ** Foothills Park ** Windy Hill Open Space Preserve * Coal Mine Ridge * Hidden Villa * Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve * Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve * Long Ridge Open Space Preserve * Fremont Older Open Space Preserve * Sanborn County Park * Castle Rock State Park ** Almaden Quicksilver County Park ** Calero County Park * Santa Teresa County Park *** Mount Wanda ** Briones Reservoir *** Tilden Regional Park ** Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve ** Redwood Regional Park * Joaquin Miller Park ** Lake Chabot Regional Park * Hayward Greenbelt * Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park ** Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park ** Mission Peak Regional Preserve ** Sunol Regional Wilderness

Since I live here in the Bay Area, I've included some of my favorite local non-redwood hikes in this section. These are shown with small tags on the map above.

Key to table colors

Old-growth redwood parks
Other parks
 Old-growth redwood hikes 
Other hikes

 

Overall Rating Distance, miles Climbing, feet Trail name
North Bay
* * Samuel P. Taylor State Park
* 2.7 190 Pioneer Tree Trail
* * 10.6 1200 Bolinas Ridge
* * 5.8 1340 Barnabe Peak
* Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve
* 3.0 400 Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail
* * Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park
* * * 8.5 2080 Willow Camp and Steep Ravine
* * * 4.7 930 Sun Trail
* * * 3.9 890 Dipsea and Steep Ravine
* * 5.2 1100 Ben Johnson Trail
* * 2.0 120 Main Trail
* * * 0.6 30 Dad O'Roarke's Bench
Peninsula
* * Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
* * * 9.1 1600 Purisima Creek and Whittemore Gulch
* Huddart County Park
* 10.5 1860 Huddart – Phleger Loop
* El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
* 9.9 2500 Lower Park Loop
* * Foothills Park and Pearson – Arastradero Preserve
* * 10.4 1940 Trappers Fire Road
* * Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
* * 9.9 1650 Razorback and Spring Ridge Loop
* * Coal Mine Ridge
* 4.0 670 Toyon and Old Spanish Trails
* Hidden Villa
* 4.0 900 Ewing Hill Loop
* Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
* * 9.7 2420 The Black Mountain Trail
* 8.8 1600 The PG&E Trail
* Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
* 3.7 690 Alpine Pond and Horseshoe Lake
* Long Ridge Open Space Preserve
* 2.9 410 Peters Creek and Long Ridge Loop
* Fremont Older Open Space Preserve
* 1.6 370 Hunters Point
* * Portola Redwoods State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park
* * 0.5 80 Heritage Grove
* * 11.5 1820 Peters Creek Loop
* * 5.8 1100 Coyote Ridge and Tarwater Loop
* * 4.6 880 Mount Ellen Loop
* 10.0 1270 Tarwater - Pomponio - Brook - Canyon
* 6.0 990 Heritage Grove Trail
* Sanborn County Park
* 5.9 1570 San Andreas and Sanborn Trails
* Castle Rock State Park
* 4.8 1010 Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trail Loop
* * Almaden Quicksilver County Park
* 11.0 1730 The New Almaden and Mine Hill Trails
* * Calero County Park
* * 8.4 2010 The Bald Hills Loop
* Santa Teresa County Park
* * 9.5 1430 Calero Creek and Coyote Peak
* Butano State Park
* * 11.7 1700 Canyon Rim Route
* * * Big Basin Redwoods State Park
* * * 10.0 2150 Berry Creek loop
* * * 0.6 10 Redwood loop
* * * 2.9 560 Sunset-Skyline Short Loop
* * 25.0 1710 Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
* * 5.4 680 Slippery Rock
* 8.0 1060 Hollow Tree and Meteor trails
* 3.0 360 Blooms Creek loop
* 3.4 130 Creeping Forest loop
* 4.7 320 Sempervirens Falls
* * * 9.4 2450 West Ridge Trail
* * 12.0 1860 Basin Trail
* * 4.8 1200 Buzzard's Roost
Santa Cruz
* Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
* * 0.8 20 Redwood Grove Loop Trail
* * * 6.6 1360 Four Crossings
* 7.0 1480 Truck Trail and Fall Creek
* 8.2 1760 Big Ben and Fall Creek
* The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Soquel Demonstration State Forest
* 1.4 350 Old Growth Loop
* 11.9 1370 Five Finger Falls
* 9.5 1270 Soquel Demonstration State Forest
East Bay
* * John Muir National Historic Site
* * * 2.4 580 Mount Wanda
* * * Tilden Regional Park
* * 3.9 750 Wildcat Peak
* * 3.6 850 Seaview Trail
* * Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve
* * 1.6 700 Stonewall Panoramic Trail
* * East Bay Municipal Utility District
* * 13.3 1430 Briones Reservoir
* * 11.1 1500 Tilden Regional Park and San Pablo Reservoir
* * Redwood Regional Park
* 6.0 1130 French Trail Loop
* * Joaquin Miller Park
* 4.4 960 Palos Colorados and Big Trees
* * Lake Chabot Regional Park
* * 9.7 780 Lake Chabot
* Hayward Greenbelt
* 6.6 1120 Wally Wickander, East Avenue, and Ward Creek Road Trails
* Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park
* * 5.0 930 Tolman Peak Trail
* * Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park
* * 12.6 2280 Turtle Pond
* * Mission Peak Regional Preserve
* * 6.8 2200 Mission Peak and Hidden Valley
* * 8.0 2220 Peak Trail
* * Sunol Regional Wilderness
* * 9.6 2260 Flag Hill and Cerro Este

Old-growth redwood parks

** Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Although it's not publicized, this park actually has a tiny old-growth grove. Of more interest are the trails that climb through dense second-growth redwood forests to grassy ridgetops, where there are some great views of the rolling hills of western Marin County.

** Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park

Because it's right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Muir Woods is by far the most-visited redwood park. The park is in a narrow stream valley and is less impressive than the other major redwood parks. It's surrounded by the very attractive coastal scenery of Mount Tamalpais State Park.

* Portola Redwoods State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park

These adjacent parks have a few small patches of old growth. Portola Redwoods was selectively logged in the 19th century and, except for the Peters Creek loop, its redwoods lack the stateliness of true old growth. Pescadero Creek has some surprisingly nice second growth, plus the tiny but attractive old-growth Heritage Grove.

* Butano State Park

This little-visited park has the feel of a remote wilderness. Its redwoods are mostly second-growth, but there are also a few well-hidden acres of old-growth uplands.

*** Big Basin Redwoods State Park

A popular getaway with a mountain resort atmosphere, just an hours' drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. Big Basin has the best redwoods south of Hendy Woods and is the best remaining example of a southern redwood forest. However, compared with the northern forests, the trees here are generally smaller and the landscape is not as lush. Overall, the park is minimally affected by development and is exceptionally enjoyable.

* Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

This popular park is centered around a small old-growth grove on an alluvial floodplain. The redwoods are partially hidden behind a dense layer of tanoak. South of the old growth is the main body of the park, which is mostly second growth redwood forest.

Sunset and summer fog on the road to Big Basin, Santa Cruz Mountains

Sunset and summer fog on the road to Big Basin

Other parks — Peninsula

** Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

Although it doesn't have any old-growth redwoods, Purisima Creek is still one of the prettiest parks on the peninsula, mostly because of its sweeping views of redwood-filled canyons, the ocean, and tree-capped coastal hills.

* Huddart County Park

Densely carpeted with second-growth redwoods, Huddart County Park offers a network of cool, shady trails that stretch from just outside the town of Woodside up to Skyline Ridge.

* El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve

This lush, heavily-wooded park just west of Skyline Ridge is mainly used by mountain bikers. For hiking it can be a little dull, but it does have a remote feel and some nice woodland..

** Foothills Park and Arastradero Preserve

Once open only to residents of Palo Alto, non-residents can now enter Foothills Park by hiking two miles through through the rolling grassy hills of Arastradero Preserve.

** Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

The most enjoyable of the many parks that line Skyline Ridge, Windy Hill includes both lush deciduous forest and open grasslands.

* Coal Mine Ridge

Part of the Portola Valley trail system, this small trail network adjacent to Windy Hill has some very attractive woodland.

* Hidden Villa

Hidden Villa is an outdoor education center in a surprisingly scenic little valley. There's a popular farm that's open to the public as well as a network of well-maintained trails.

* Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

This extremely popular park near Cupertino and Los Altos includes a challenging hill climb up Skyline Ridge. The park is wooded with the area's typical laurel and oak woodland.

* Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve

This preserve, the most scenic of the parks atop Skyline Ridge, has two small ponds, a tiny nature center, and a nice view over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Traffic noise and the continuous sound of gunfire detract from the otherwise fine setting.

* Long Ridge Open Space Preserve

Long Ridge has some great views and enjoyable wooded trails, but the park should only be visited in the late afternoon when there's less traffic noise and the gunfire has stopped.

* Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

This small preserve in the low grassy hills outside Saratoga offers a short and pleasant stroll to a fine viewpoint over Silicon Valley. Longer walks are possible but involve walking through a lot of horse manure.

* Sanborn County Park

Resembling Huddart County Park except that it's in the South Bay, Sanborn is a fully developed park with campgrounds and picnic areas. Reaching from the suburbs up to Skyline Ridge, the park is on a hillside that's densely carpeted with second-growth redwoods. A few small old-growth redwoods remain.

* Castle Rock State Park

Located atop one of the highest ridges in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock offers sweeping views over the mountains as well as rock climbing on its tufa formations.

** Almaden Quicksilver County Park

This very popular park is located in the hills above the suburban Almaden Valley. It has a very nice mixture of woodland and open hillsides with views over the Santa Clara and Almaden valleys.

** Calero County Park

This very scenic park is more remote and much less-visited than neighboring Almaden County Park. With its oak-dotted golden brown hillsides, it looks more like the east bay than the peninsula.

* Santa Teresa County Park

This park, located at the south end of suburban Silicon Valley, sits on a mostly treeless hill between the Almaden and Coyote valleys. The recommended hike is surprisingly rural and has some great views, somewhat marred by electrical lines.

Other parks — Santa Cruz

* The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Located in the Santa Cruz area, Nisene Marks and Soquel Demonstration State Forest are carpeted with dense second-growth forest and offer miles of cool, shady, and quiet trails.

Other parks — East Bay

*** Mount Wanda

This tiny park on a hill near the John Muir house has some very nice oak woodland.

*** Tilden Regional Park

Located just outside Berkeley, the attractive and highly-developed Tilden Regional Park is one of the East Bay's most scenic and popular parks.

** Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve

This small Berkeley park has one trail, a short, steep climb to a magnificent view of the Bay Area.

**EBMUD

The little-used and often remote trails of EBMUD's watershed lands make some of the best all-day hikes in the East Bay.

**Redwood Regional Park

Unusually for the East Bay, Oakland's Redwood Regional Park has several miles of redwood trails. Although the heavily-logged redwoods are tiny, there's still some pretty nice hiking.

*Joaquin Miller Park

Like the neighboring Redwood Regional Park, the smaller Joaquin Miller Park also has some dense groves of second-growth redwoods.

**Lake Chabot Regional Park

Lake Chabot is best known for its popular marina area and paved hiking trail along the lakeshore, but parts of the park are surprisingly remote and woodsy. A hike around the lake includes a little of each.

*Hayward Greenbelt

Although they're threaded through wooded canyons in a suburban neighborhood, Hayward's Wally Wickander, East Avenue, and Ward Creek Trails feel surprisingly remote.

*Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park

Most of the trails in this park are dirt ranch roads over open grass-covered hills. In a quiet corner of the park, the Tolman Peak Trail features some nice views and an attractive patch of woods.

**Lake Chabot Regional Park

Lake Chabot is best known for its popular marina area and paved hiking trail along the lakeshore, but parts of the park are surprisingly remote and woodsy. A hike around the lake includes a little of each.

**Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park

The best-known part of this attractive and popular park is the prominent ridge above the town of Pleasanton, but there's also an extensive backcountry.

** Mission Peak Regional Preserve

The sunny and often hot hike to Mission Peak is relatively short, yet offers outstanding views. It's easy to see why it's one of the most popular hikes in the Bay Area.

** Sunol Regional Wilderness

Located in an isolated valley off of Highway 680, Sunol is one of the more remote parks in the region. It has a nice mix of open grassland and oak forest with very little nearby development to spoil the views.

Sunset and summer fog on the road to Big Basin, Santa Cruz Mountains

San Francisco seen from the Berkeley Hills

 


 

© 2005–14 David Baselt