Nestled deep in the Santa Cruz mountains, down some twisty roads, is my favorite local state park: Portola Redwoods. Creeks, short waterfalls and old growth redwoods are tucked inside this lesser traveled park. The trees aren’t as large as the ones found in nearby Big Basin State Park, but more often than not, you’ll find them in solitude. Weekend obligations kept me in the Bay Area a few weeks ago so I popped over to this park for a bit of solo hiking and mileage in preparation for long missions this summer.
It’s basically been raining in the Bay Area for the last 2 months. Save for a couple patches of sunlight here and there, I’m beginning to think I live in the Pacific Northwest. The gloomy weather has made outdoor climbing more or less nonexistent. Our favorite local crag, Castle Rock, is soaked. Yosemite Valley and Bishop have mostly been under snow, or just too wet to climb. Most of my free time has been spent training or hibernating or some combination of the two. Finally, this past weekend, we decided to get out and stretch our legs; rain or shine. Our pick was Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve just south of Half Moon Bay.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything local. It’s also been a hot minute since the last time I went on a real hike that didn’t involve carrying a crash pad or a rope. With a supposed bad weather window everywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we opted to stay at home to attempt some Sierra peak bagging training. (Read: hiking and putting in miles cause it’s been forever and a day since my feet have actually hit the ground) I opted for my local favorite at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Berry Creek Falls.
The Bay Area is a treasure trove of lush forests dotted with redwoods and picturesque cascades. I set out to do an 8 mile loop up Cataract Trail to High Marsh Trail to Kent Trail to Helen Markt Trail a few weekends ago but turned around due to torrential downpour. Ideally last weekend would have been the most ideal weekend for the hike, but this past weekend was just as good and the falls were still flowing!
Hike: Tiptoe Falls, Iverson Cabin Site, Old Tree
Where: Portola Redwoods State Park
Duration: 3 hours
Length: 5 miles?
Gear: Icebreaker Tech T Lite, Aether Apparel Elite Leggings, Triple Aught Design Artemis Hoodie, Boreas Gear Topaz 25, and Ahnu Sugarpine Waterpoof Boots
Cost of Parking: $10
On Saturday morning, I set off to do a bit of solo hiking in Portola Redwoods State Park. I had a few hours to kill and wanted something a little more remote and quiet than the open space preserves in the area. This park is one of the hidden gems in the Bay Area, tucked away off of Skyline Blvd in La Honda, CA.
I decided to check out Tiptoe Falls in this severe drought to see if it still even existed. There are currently campground closures throughout the park and no running water throughout the park. My first stop would be Tiptoe Falls, approximately .5 miles away from the parking lot. The trail descended to Pescadero Creek, which had such low flow volume it appeared stagnant.
The trail then meandered into a grove of redwoods before crossing over Fall Creek to head to Tiptoe Falls. Fall Creek was bone dry with occasional little puddles. And then I encountered Tiptoe Falls, a 6′ tall wet rock. Calling the falls a trickle would be an insult. It is practically a seasonal fall at this point.
I then headed up the Iverson Trail to the Iverson cabin to climb up the Summit Trail. I encountered this little guy. Happy to see he’s still out and about, even with this ridiculously dry weather.
From Summit Trail, I turned left on Slate Creek Trail to head down to the Old Tree and back to the parking lot. It was a beautiful, and warm fall day. I only saw one other person on the trail, and there were no more than three cars parked at the trailhead.
If you’re looking for an escape from Bay Area crowds, this place is it.