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Heritage Grove Trail

Sam McDonald County Park

Sam McDonald County Park Links:

April 20th, 2003

5.0 miles
1115 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:37

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Interstate 280, take Highway 84 west up and over Skyline Blvd. Turn left onto Pescadero Road. After about a mile, bear right to stay on Pescadero Road. Less than a mile later, turn right into the park. Parking is $4.   View Driving Map

Cammy, Jason, Jean, and I arrived at the park around 11:30am. The large parking lot had about a dozen cars. There was a large group of kids running around, a few of them gathered around a horse next to a horse trailer. After paying the self-registration fee, we started off on our hike.

It was lightly overcast skies and a bit chilly as we started out, but the weather didn't matter much as much of the hike is under cover of redwood forest. From the parking lot, we went on the Big Trees Trail, which immediately crosses Pescadero Road. Cars can go by quite fast here around a blind corner, so keep your ears open and be careful!

After crossing the road, trail is a bit confusing as it weaves in and out of the Towne Fire Road. We first climbed on the Big Trees Trail, then joined the Towne Fire Road. We followed it a short distance up some more, then got back on the Big Trees Trail as it passed one of several water tanks we would see. The trail then descends, giving the impression that you're going the wrong way, since it appears you're headed back to where you just came. In a sense, you are, but don't be will make sense later.

Redwood forest

The trail twists its way gradually down, through the redwood forest. Along the way, expect to see lots of banana slugs. We did. Eventually, you meet a trail intersection with the Heritage Grove Trail. This intersection is one of the nicer parts of the hike, where you can get a great view of some relatively open redwood forest towering over a small creek. We went a little ways past the intersection to enjoy the view, then doubled back to the intersection and went on the Heritage Grove Trail (continuing on the Big Trees Trail brings you back to the parking lot).

The Heritage Grove Trail is mostly level; we passed ferns and little baby blue flowers along the way. There's not too much worth mentioning here. Eventually, we reached the next trail intersection, where going straight would bring us to the parking lot near Heritage Grove itself. Apparently, there are 37 acres of old-growth redwood here, but unfortunately we passed it by in our haste to get to the Hiker's Hut. You may want to check out the grove before doubling back. We turned right instead of going straight, and headed uphill toward the hut.

We climbed and climbed, passing a gate and shortly reaching a large clearing. We began to hear voices, so we knew we were close to the hut. The wide dirt road that is the Towne Trail led off to the right, but we took the singletrack trail to our left to head up to the hut. When we reached the hut, we found that it was occupied. A large group -- in fact, the group that included all the kids we'd seen at the parking lot -- was there, having reserved it for the day. They had a big spread of food and drink and were having a big party. We continued on up the dirt road past the hut, passing a communications tower, reaching a nice open spot of ground near a sign that gave the elevation (a bit over 1300 feet).

Flower in the field

While we ate our lunch, we enjoyed the views and the silence (being far enough away from the hut). Nameless forest-covered hills spread out before us, wildflowers at our feet. Behind us, through the trees we could see across the valley to rolling green hillsides.

View from our lunch spot

After lunch, we doubled back past the Hiker's Hut (where the party still went on), and we decided to take the Brook Trail back. This singletrack trail parallels the Towne Trail -- in fact, most of the time it's less than 30 feet away. If I had to do it again, I probably would take the Towne Trail instead, as the Brook Trail is not named after a body of water but rather a person.

Banana slugs crawling up a tree

Before we knew it, we were at the horse camp, wondering how a bat crawled its way inside the sign there. After vainly trying to get it out, we turned right to stay on the Towne Trail (going straight heads onto the Ridge Trail). Here, there are some impressive views of towering redwoods, starting 50-75 feet below, and continuing up into the sky far above.

Shortly, we quickly found ourselves passing the water tank and crossing the road, and then back at the parking lot. It's a much quicker hike to the Hiker's Hut via the Towne Trail, so keep this in mind when planning your hike.

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