Posted tagged ‘Purisima’

After Work Hike, Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP

July 11, 2008

Last night I decided to go explore some an area of Purisima Creek that I’ve never gone to before, the Irish Ridge Trail. The hike ended up being a 6 mile hike with lots of descending and climbing and more opportunities for further exploration in the future. In retrospect I wish I had held off until a weekend because now I want to go back and explore the rest of this area but it was still a very lovely hike and well worth a try if you haven’t gone there before, even if it is an out and back. I should note, however, that if you’ve read my other hike descriptions you’ve probably figured out that I tend to hike solo. This area was one of the few areas of the San Francisco Peninsula that I actually thought that was a bad idea, the Irish Ridge area appears to get almost zero usage and it’s deep in the nowhere. If you fall or injure yourself in this part of the park you cannot rely on someone finding you and coming to your aid so take a friend on this walk.

About the park: I’ve described Purisima previously so I won’t spend more time describing the park. I parked at the PC04 gate off Tunitas Creek Road. To get here take Skyline Drive to the intersection with Kings Mountain Road and Tunitas Creek. Turn westerly onto Tunitas Creek and slow down. This is a twisty and bumpy road. Follow this road for about a mile or so and you’ll come to an intersection with Swett Road, stay to the left and continue on Tunitas Creek for another couple miles until you see the brown and yellow gate for PC04 on your right. There’s no developed parking here but there are lots of roadside pullouts you can park in. Also bear in mind that there are no bathrooms or water on this side of the park so be prepared.

About the hike: From PC04, walk down The Grabtown Gulch trail 0.3 miles and then turn left onto the Borden Hatch Mill Trail. Follow BHMT for 0.2 miles and turn onto the Bald Knob Trail. Follow the lovely Bald Knob singletrack for 1.3 miles to a 4-way intersection and take a sharp left turn onto Irish Ridge Trail. I’m not certain but I would suspect that this ridge is named for Milton Irish, who operated a sawmill over in El Corte de Madera Creek OSP back in the late 1800s and this area has a heavy logging history.

You will descend steeply on Irish Ridge Trail for the first 100 yards or so and you’ll be tempted to turn around but continue on for a bit and the trail begins to descend more gradually. You’ll hit one section which has some stunning views of the southcoast, especially if the fog should be out. Continue on this trail and you’ll note that the trail becomes rougher and shows little sign of recent use. In places there are branches of poison oak reaching out over the trail so be cautious about touching the plant life. This trail also has lots of coyote and scat and similar evidence of other critters, testifying to the scarcity of use in this part of the park.

Continue down Irish Ridge to the end of the trail or to the intersection with Lobitos Creek Trail. You’ll have descended about 500 feet in total if I’m reading this here topo map correctly.  Lobitos Creek appears to be a 2 mile long ramble through the redwoods, a welcome relief after the open ridge trail you just descended on. I’ll be coming back to check out Lobitos Creek another time when evening is not approaching rapidly. But even if you’re turning around, walk down the first 50 yards of Lobitos Creek and check out the huge redwood tree just to the left of the trail with the very funky branch arcing over the trail. I’ve never seen a redwood growing like this one, it’s quite cool and worth a look while you’re in the neighborhood.

Now, unfortunately, it’s time to turn around and head back up the hill. It’s not too steep until you hit those last 100 yards or so and it’s a pleasant ramble back the way you came on Bald Knob to Borden Hatch to Grabtown Gulch to PC04. According to the map this route was just about exactly 6 miles. If you do Lobitos Creek it would be 10 in total. I did the hike in exactly 2 hours but I was really pushing and wished I could take it slower but I had gotten a late start leaving from work and it was getting dark by the time I walked out. Plan that it’ll take you 2.5 -3 hours at a comfortable pace with time for a snack at one or more points along the trail.


Weekend Hike, Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP

July 6, 2008

I went for a long walk in Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve on Friday. Purisima is a very popular preserve featuring a few long trails that descend through some very old second-growth redwoods. The preserve has a rich history of logging and milling, which is sort of cool if you’re into local history. It also can get really busy and solitude can be hard to find unless you use great care in picking your route. Here’s a 13.8 mile hike that will take you around 5 hours and get you away from the the most crowded trails as much as possible.


About the park. Purisima is the first of the Open Space Preserves that you come to when you come south on Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are several parking areas for the park, the largest has pit toilet and decent offroad parking. A bit farther south is a smaller roadside parking area at the entrance to a trail that is actually wheelchair accessible. That parking area also has a potty. These two major parking areas are the source of a LOT of traffic. Mountain bikers are particularly attracted to Whittemore Gulch Trail during the spring and summer. The trail offers a very long semi-challenging singletrack from the skyline down to the bottom of the park. Whittemore Gulch is closed to cyclists in the winter. The Midpeninsula Open Space District has been acquiring a LOT of land in this area, particularly off the end of the North Ridge Trail so hopefully we’ll see increased opportunities for loops and long rides/hikes in the future, maybe that’ll spread the users a bit more. There is a third parking area for the park that is accessed from the Half Moon Bay area, off of  Higgins Purisima Road/Purisima Creek Road and that’s where this hike will begin.


About the hike: Park at the lower parking area marked PC05 on Purisima Creek Road on the Half Moon Bay side of the preserve. To get there take Highway 1 south from Half Moon Bay and turn on the intersection marked Verde Road/Purisima Creek Road. The intersection will also have a sign pointing to Elkus Ranch. You can get there another way but this is way faster and you’ll encounter fewer bikes on the road. The parking area is located at the apex of a switchback in the road and it only holds 5 or 6 cars, which is just stupid but that’s the way it is. Unless you get there very early in the AM you’ll end up parking just off the road like everyone else. Try to pull off the road as much as possible and be aware that there’s at least a small chance that you might get a ticket, though I’ve never known or heard of anyone who actually got ticketed here.

From the parking area, walk in the main trail and pick up a map from the sign board that’s about 50 yards into the park. At the sign board turn left, cross the bridge and take an immediate right turn onto Harkins Ridge Trail. Harkins is a fairly steep climbing trail that will take you up nearly to the top of the preserve. It’s a workout and can get hot in late summer if the fog has burned off. The first quarter of the trail winds through the redwoods and then it emerges onto the ridge top where it gets steep and a little loose. I once led some friends up Harkins on our bikes in late July  when we were low on water. That was 15 years ago, I think they might forgive me in another 10-20 years. Drink frequently and rest when you need to. The top quarter of the trail winds through oak trees and has great views of the Purisima canyon and the Coastside behind you.

At a well marked intersection with the Soda Gulch trail turn right onto Soda Gulch. This is a well-traveled singletrack that begins in open grassland and mixed oak and quickly dives down into the redwoods. It’s a very long and enjoyable wander through the redwoods and can sometimes be a little busy but it’s far enough into the park that it’s usually not a problem. Bikes are not allowed on Soda Gulch but you may see some bikers anyway. Give them a break, don’t hassle them.  There’s absolutely no reason for this to be a hiker-only trail except that the preserve managers wanted to take one of the best trails and give it over to solemn and contemplative hikes. Try to live up to those expectations as you hike this trail. No smiling or conversation, you’re supposed to be solemnly contemplating nature. Try to be morose and worry about your retirement account if you can manage it.</sarcasm>

At the end of Soda Gulch you’ll join the main fireroad in the park, Purisima Creek Trail. Turn right and descend this easy relaxed trail down to the intersection with Grabtown Gulch Trail. Grabtown is a lovely singletrack trail that doesn’t waste any time getting you up the hill. That means there are a couple steep sections but mostly it’s not bad. Climb Grabtown Gulch up through the trees to the intersection with the Borden Hatch Mill Trail.  Turn right onto Borden Hatch and follow it 0.2 miles to the intersection with the Bald Knob Trail (no, I’m not kidding, that really is the name).

Bald Knob was built a few years back at a time when the staff at the district needed to show off for the governing Board. They pulled out all the stops and the result is one of the loveliest and least traveled trails in the area. No visit to this part of the park should skip this trail, even if it is an out and back. Follow Bald Knob out to a 4-way intersection in an open chaparral area. You can turn left and head down to the Irish Ridge trail but bear in mind that a) the trail to Irish Ridge drops like a stone and b) you’ve got to come back up and out to get back to your car. I’d recommend turning around, we’ll visit Irish Ridge another day.

After you backtrack on Bald Knob and rejoin Borden Hatch turn left and descend Borden Hatch. Unlike Grabtown Gulch, Borden Hatch is in no hurry to get down the hill. It meanders around and wanders all over the place on its way down the hill. Eventually, though, the trail will join Purisima Creek Trail, the main trail and the one that leads back to your car. Turn left onto Purisma Creek and follow the stream downhill to the parking area. This stretch of Purisima Creek is likely to have lots of walkers and riders on it, you’re only 1 mile from a parking area. 

When you reach the parking area you’ll have done about 13.8 miles, according to the maps. This hike took me around 5.5 hours moving relatively quickly but not hurrying. There are opportunities to shorten the hike and to do only one of the two loops that are built into this route. If you’re pressed for time either one of these two loops would make a great medium length hike but really you should do the whole thing. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and you will have seen most of the best that this preserve has to offer.