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Portola Redwoods

Portola Redwoods State Park

June 25th, 2011

4.5 miles
720 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:31

Starting elevation
510 feet
Max elevation
574 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Palo Alto, take Page Mill Road west up to Skyline Boulevard. Continue straight, descending on Alpine Road. At the Y-intersection, keep left on the road toward Portola Redwoods State Park. Follow the road all the way into the park. We started the hike from the group campgrounds, though you can start near the visitor's center without too much trouble.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

We started off on a hike from the Ravine group campground at 11:30am on a beautiful summer day. From the site, we climbed up the steps to the parking lot, then turned left onto the paved service road. After walking on pavement for a few minutes, we turned left onto the trail, and then immediately right onto the Iverson Trail toward the Pomponio Trail. If you aren't camping at the group campgrounds, you could start a similar hike from the Madrone day use area (just before the visitor center). From there, just take the Iverson trail toward the service road, turning left just before reaching the service road.

The trail can be described almost exactly the same for much of the hike: shaded, dense forest with some redwood trees, ferns, and lots of banana slugs along the way. The kids made a game of counting the banana slugs they saw, and they reached over 25 on the day before they lost count.

At the next trail intersection, the Iverson trail turns left, but we continued straight onto the Pomponio Trail. We soon ran into a couple of people doing trail maintenance. They were doing the hard work of cutting portions of a tree that had fallen mostly lengthwise on top of the trail. They said they'd have it cleared by the afternoon. For now, though, we thanked them and carefully made our way under and over branches to continue on the trail.

Hiking on the Pomponio Trail

Omnipresent banana slug

After a little more than a mile, we reached another intersection, turning left onto the wide road that is the Bridge Trail. Shortly after that we reached a large bridge over Pescadero Creek. There are use trails on either side of the bridge leading down to the creek itself. We took the near trail down, reaching a nice secluded peaceful section with fluffy grasses and plenty of good skipping rocks. We settled down for lunch and a long break.

Hiking on the Bridge Trail

Grasses at Pescadero Creek

Playing at our lunch stop

After lunch we continued along the Bridge Trail. We passed another trail intersection, staying on the Bridge Trail, then at the next one stayed left onto the Old Haul Road. Though I didn't find any of it really familiar, we'd done almost the exact same hike up to this point 12 years ago. Then, we'd turned right onto the Old Haul Road instead of left, and continued on for a nearly 15 mile hike. Then, too, we hadn't stopped to enjoy the creek itself. I doubt we had even noticed the trails leading down before.

It wasn't clear to me from the map that we could reach Tiptoe Falls from the Old Haul Road. I thought we might have to go all the way down to Iverson's Cabin Site and then backtrack. However, we didn't have to. We turned left onto a singletrack trail leading to the Iverson Trail and the trail to Tiptoe Falls. From the Iverson Trail, there's a short spur trail leading to the falls, and it's well worth it to visit. The falls themselves are only about 5 feet tall, but a nice visual treat with a tiny pool at the base of the falls, and ferns lining the trail toward the falls. We were briefly the only ones there, until another group of 4 hikers came by.

Tiptoe Falls

Ferns along trail leading toward Tiptoe Falls

We returned to the Iverson Trail and shortly reached the edge of Pescadero Creek once again. We stopped here for another break, then returned to the Iverson Trail. Soon after that we walked through the Turitz Grove, a pretty grove of redwood trees. At the next trail intersection, instead of turning right and heading toward the visitor's center, we stayed left on the Iverson Trail toward the Pomponio Trail. Before we reached the Pomponio Trail, we reached another crossing of Pescadero Creek. We stopped here for another break, as it's another great place to enjoy the water.

Pescadero Creek

Turitz Grove

Another section of Pescadero Creek

Bridge over the creek

After crossing the creek over a small bridge, we soon reached the Pomponio Trail. There we turned right, back onto the trail we'd been on near the start of the hike. Shortly, we turned left and then immediately right back onto the pavement of the service road, then returned to the Ravine group camp after a pretty hike with plenty of opportunities to visit the water's edge.

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