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Peters Creek Grove

Portola Redwoods State Park

April 23rd, 2015

12.9 miles
2040 vertical feet
Total Time: 7:27

Starting elevation
436 feet
Max elevation
1488 feet

Rating: 6/10

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. After paying for parking at the visitor's center, cross the bridge and park in the small lot on your right.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

We had visited Portola Redwoods State Park 3 times before. Last year we had done a shorter hike that contained part of this trail. Now we decided to do the entire hike to and from Peters Creek Grove. We were mainly looking for a long hike as part of training for backpacking in the summer. On length it delivered, but not much else.

Not surprisingly, the park was mostly deserted on a Thursday in April. We were the only car in the parking lot. Skyline Boulevard had been shrouded in fog on the drive here, and it was still cold and overcast when we arrived around 10:30am.

We skipped the usual hat, sunscreen, and glasses and entered the forest. Instead of doing the Old Tree Trail, we turned left immediately onto the Slate Creek Trail. The trail starts climbing immediately. We followed the trail, then turned right to continue on toward the Slate Creek camp (going straight would have taken us to the park campground).

Banana slugs need to get a room


Close-up of banana slug

After about a mile and a half, we reached another intersection. Continuing to the right would have taken us onto the Summit Trail back toward the main park road. That is what we had done last year. This time, instead, we took the left fork toward the trail camp.

Of course we saw lots of banana slugs, though most of them were in the first couple miles of the hike. The hike was basically completely shaded at this point. After about 3 miles, we reached the trail camp. These are reservable sites for backpackers. As expected, they were all empty. We settled on one of the picnic tables and had lunch.

Redwoods at Slate Creek Trail Camp



After lunch, we continued up the Bear Creek trail, which starts as a wide dirt road. A sign warns that a 7-mile hike to and from the Peters Creek Grove awaits, and to leave enough time to return by dusk. It was only about 1pm when we left the camp, so I thought we'd be fine.

Sign warning hikers to allow time to return by dusk

Bear Creek Trail

The trail from here on out had a few places where trees had fallen across the trail and we had to make small detours or pick our way carefully over or through the fallen trees. There are also places where poison oak is on either side of the trail. It starts out wide, but the trail eventually narrows to single track. Along the way, we saw the remains of an abandoned old car in a ditch. Looks like it's been there since at least the 1950's or earlier. Shortly after the car, we reached the top of the climb.

Continuing on the single track portion of the Bear Creek Trail

Broken down old car next to the trail

We now descended about 800 feet, sometimes steeply. On the left we could sometimes see through the trees down to the forest we had hiked through earlier. We reached the bottom (Bear Creek). While we had a short rest break, I was startled by another hiker. I hadn't expected to see anyone else on the trail today, but there he was. He was probably as surprised as we were to find someone else on the trail.


Trail leading down to Bear Creek

Bear Creek

Bear Creek

Redwood sorrel

After a break, we crossed over Bear Creek and hiked to the start of the loop. Only we were a bit confused since it didn't say loop, and I had thought that the loop might have started when we crossed Bear Creek (it hadn't). So after we took the right fork and walked for a few minutes to the creek, we turned around and took the left fork instead. That put us on the loop trail, eventually coming back along the path we had just backtracked on (the loop is about a mile in distance).

Redwoods in Peters Creek Grove

Peters Creek

New life begins on a downed tree

After the loop, we returned the way we had come. We left the loop at around 3:30pm. After a lengthy climb back up those 800 feet we had earlier we descended, we reached the high point of the hike at around 4:15pm, then descended to the trail camp, which we reached around 5pm.

After leaving the trail camp at 5:13pm, we took about 68 minutes to reach the parking lot.

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