I usually spend most of August on the trail in the Sierra, but I had a random unplanned weekend and decided to save some driving time and catch up on work at home. Well, I should have used it to catch up on busywork at home, but this cool summer day sure seemed like a nice time to hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It is summer so I wanted to find a nice shaded place to hike. Naturally, any redwood park would qualify. Never one to choose the easy route, I decided to access the redwoods of Portola State Park from above, starting at the LR01 gate in Long Ridge Open Space preserve. The hike feels like a lot of downhill on the way in, but there are some stretches of climbing mixed in.
Once down at Slate Creek camp I turned down the Bear Creek Trail Loop, signed as ‘7 Miles round trip and very strenuous’. My GPS odometer had 4.25 miles at that point. When I got back to the sign the odometer was at 9.5 miles. So seven miles it is not. But strenuousness is a relative term. Compared to a lot of the hiking I do I found it pretty easy. However, the trail had recently been trimmed and it looks like it could get quite overgrown quite quickly – I bet by next spring it will be overgrown with poison oak and brambles again. Also, the last mile into the grove is a steep descent. Nothing unusual, but it would most definitely be a challenge for someone not used to that kind of trail.
>There is a nice loop through a redwood grove at the bottom – I soaked in the views while soaking my feet in the creek. I also found some beautiful late season wildflowers, including leopard lilies as big as my fist. I don’t usually hike this terrain in August, so there are a couple of flowers I found that I don’t know – I have some identification to do in my future.
The climb back from Portola to Long Ridge was long and hot, which I am not a fan of. Still, this was an excellent hike. I only saw people in the first and last mile at Long Ridge (mountain bikers) and a couple of people on the Bear Creek Trail loop. The scenery included views towards Monterey Bay from the ridge and deep first-growth redwood forest. I’m always looking for good strenuous dayhikes within a short drive of home, and this one is a great option. 15 miles with 4000 ft of gain – a great match for what I’m usually looking for.