Discovering all of these adventures without help would be a formidable challenge. Nearly a dozen different governing agencies manage the parks of the Bay Area. Regulations, sources of information, and reservation systems vary widely by park district. Plus, the proximity of millions of people means that hikers usually must make reservations at least a few weeks before their trip. But this comprehensive guide tells hikers what they need to know to get away from the city hubbub for a night or two. Within these pages you'll find detailed information on regulations, agency contact information, crowds, and reservations for every overnight destinationplus human history, natural history, trail descriptions, fun activities, maps, and more.
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13 Portola Redwoods State Park
RATINGS: Scenery 5, Difficulty 3, Solitude 4
ROUND-TRIP DISTANCE: 5.0 miles to trail camp; 12.0 miles to Peters Creek Grove
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: +650'/–650' to trail camp; +2,250'/–2,250' to grove
RECOMMENDED MAP: Portola Redwoods State Park Map by California State Parks and the Portola and Castle Rock Foundation
BEST TIMES: May through November
AGENCY: Portola Redwoods State Park, (650) 948-9098, www.parks.ca.gov. Visitor center is open daily in summer; in the off-season it’s open Friday– Sunday and sporadically the rest of week.
PERMIT: Reservations are required for Slate Creek Trail Camp and can be made up to two months in advance by calling (831) 338-8861, Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Trail camp is closed November through April.
Highlights: The cloak of the redwood forest hushes sound, diffuses light, and radiates life. Travel through a dense canopy of regeneration to a shady trail camp, your base for exploring a distant stand of huge old-growth redwoods: the lightly traveled Peters Creek Grove.
Hike Overview The journey to Slate Creek Trail Camp winds through a thick redwood forest rejuvenating from recent logging activity. From camp, a moderately strenuous 7-mile round-trip to Peters Creek Grove rewards with ancient majesty. Nearby Slate Creek is delightful as well and makes for good adventuring closer to camp. Expect damp, cool conditions year-round as the forest canopy blocks out most sun and is often infused with fog or rain.
Trail Camp Slate Creek Trail Camp features six sites spread along a broad forested saddle and populated with a thick forest of young redwood, Douglas-fir, and tanoak. Water is not available in camp, but perennial Slate Creek can be accessed a third of a mile and a hundred feet down from camp on Slate Creek Trail. Picnic tables and an outhouse are provided, but there are no food lockers to protect your victualshang your food or it may be gone in the morning. The trail camp receives moderate use, mostly on summer weekends. Except for the busiest summer weekends and holidays, however, it is seldom full. Campfires and dogs are prohibited. Sites cost $15 per night (maximum six people per site). You must mail an $8 nonrefundable reservation fee to secure the site (21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006). Pay your camping fees at the visitor center once you arrive.
Getting There: Take Highway 35 to the turnoff for Alpine Road, located 6 miles north of the junction of Highways 35 and 9 and 7 miles south of the junction of Highways 35 and 84. Head south on Alpine Road, and in 2.5 miles bear left on Price Avenue to continue downward for another 3 miles to the visitor center. Note that the access road is steep and winding, and RVs and trailers are not recommended. Backpackers must register at the visitor center before proceeding to the trailhead, on the left just past the campground entrance and posted for Slate Creek Trail.
Hiking It: The trail begins on Slate Creek Trail (0.0/430'), passing redwoods, canyon live oak, and the ubiquitous spiny leaves of small tanoak trees and shrubs. You quickly reach the junction with Old Tree Trail, which continues straight on a short and worthwhile side trip. Bear left toward Slate Creek Trail Camp. The single-track trail immediately climbs past Douglas-firs and continues uphill past a spur trail from the campground on the left (0.5/670'). You next pass a pleasant bench in Bolton Memorial Grove before several quick switchbacks lead to a more level traverse punctuated by the appearance of California bay. Continue on Slate Creek Trail as Summit Trail joins from the right (1.3/930'), an alternate route back to the park road for the return trip. From here it’s a long traverse atop often steep slopes to Slate Creek Trail Camp (2.5/1,000') and the junction for Peters Creek on Bear Creek Trail. Slate Creek can be accessed a short distance farther on Slate Creek Trail at a former mill site. To continue to Peters Creek Grove, bravely pass the caution sign on Bear Creek Trail and begin the strenous 7-mile round-trip hike from this point. Winding along Bear Creek, you may notice the decaying automobile among the bigleaf maple and hazel by the creek before breaking out into an opening thick with poison oak. A huge, moss-draped coast live oak is on the right past this clearing near the high point of the hike (1,450') before the trail passes through thick Douglas-fir and begins the descent into the Peters Creek drainage. A brief view of the valley appears along the ridge beyond a few California buckeye, but the steady drop is mostly uneventful. . . until the redwoods reappear. From the junction at the bottom for the Peters Creek Loop (5.0/740') either direction is good but going left first saves the fattest trees in Peters Creek Grove for the very end. The loop twice crosses Peters Creek; you may have to ford it following winter storms. The enormous specimens upstream approach 10 feet in diameter and exhibit striking similarity to their even larger cousins, the giant sequoia. They owe their size to the ideal growing conditions and constant water supply.
Giving Back: Portola and Castle Rock Foundation supports interpretive projects at Portola Redwoods and Castle Rock state parks and publishes maps, brochures, and interpretive materials for the parks. Contact them or learn more at (650) 948-9098 or www.parks.ca.gov/default. asp?page_id=22075.
Table of Contents
- Summary of Featured Trips
- Trips by Theme
- How to Use This Book
- Safety, Gear, and the Wilderness Ethic
- Where Should I Go?
- North Bay
- Angel Island State Park
- The Marin Headlands: Gerbode Valley Loop
- The Marin Headlands: Tennessee Valley
- Point Reyes: Wildcat Camp and Alamere Falls
- Point Reyes: Sky Camp to Palomarin
- Point Reyes: Coast Camp to Glen Camp Loop
- Point Reyes: Bear Valley Loop
- Point Reyes: Tomales Bay Boat-In Camping
- Austin Creek State Recreation Area
- Santa Cruz Mountains
- Monte Bello Open Space Preserve Loop
- Butano State Park Loop
- Pescadero Creek County Park Loop
- Portola Redwoods State Park
- Castle Rock State Park Loop
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Basin Trail Loop
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Sunset Trail Camp Loop
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Inland from the Sea
- Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
- East of the Bay
- Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
- Mission Peak Regional Preserve Loop
- Sunol Regional Wilderness: Sunol Backpack Camp Loop
- Del Valle Regional Park: Murietta Falls Loop
- The Ohlone Trail
- Henry W. Coe State Park: The Western Zone Loop
- Henry W. Coe State Park: Mississippi Lake and Beyond
- Henry W. Coe State Park: Coit Lake and Vicinity
- Henry W. Coe State Park: Wilson Peak and Vicinity Loop
- Henry W. Coe State Park: Redfern Pond
Appendix: Bay Area Campgrounds
Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
About the Author