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Butano Ridge Loop

Portola Redwoods State Park

Portola Redwoods State Park Links:

May 23rd, 1999

14.6 miles
2490 vertical feet
Total Time: 6:44

Rating: 6/10

Directions: Take Page Mill west to Skyline Blvd. Continue on the other side of Skyline down Alpine Road. Turn left onto Portola State Park Road. Continue 3.5 miles to the visitor center.  View Driving Map

Jean, Jennie, Kane, Lan, and I hiked in Portola State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park.

As we crested Skyline on the drive toward the park, we found the sky was filled with clouds. Tempting fate, I proclaimed that it would burn off (the last two times I'd said this, it'd snowed, hailed, and rained). By the time we started our hike at about 11am, it had indeed burned off and the skies were blue. But it was still relatively cool, as the shade of the redwood trees would follow us for most of the hike.

From just above the visitor center, we started off along the Iverson trail. Here we passed the only hikers we saw the entire trip. They included several kids who were probably car-camping in the area.

We continued on the Pomponio Trail to the Bridge Trail and turned left. While the trails up to this point had been mostly single-track, the Bridge Trail is a wide fire trail. Mosquitoes were out in force, and we stopped to apply insect repellent. I put my new hat on to prevent them from attacking my head.

Shortly, we crossed Pescadero Creek on a bridge. Horses had left their, um...mark here, and in other scattered places along the trail. But we never saw any actual horses on the trail.

At some point we should have turned right onto a small trail which would have led us to the Old Haul Road and eventually Shaw Flat Trail. But we never made that right turn. I now believe that trail is called the Snag Trail, but the trail description I have didn't mention that trail.

So we ended up taking the Bridge Trail to Old Haul Road Trail (another fire trail), and then turning right onto the Butano Loop Ridge Trail. In effect, this meant that we were simply doing the hike backwards (doing the loop in the opposite direction of the intended route).

One of many banana slugs along the trail

As we climbed up toward the ridge, we passed through a redwood forest. Scrunch, scrunch went the layer of leaves underfoot. Scattered throughout the trail were banana slugs big and small. During our hike we also saw caterpillars, lizards, snakes, squirrels, and deer. The forest is alive with life.

Unfortunately, because of the thick forest, as we walked along the ridge we didn't have any great views. This is the problem with most of the Santa Cruz mountains. While the hills are filled with lush vegetation that makes the hikes enjoyable, there are few great views. On the other hand, the Diablo range just a few dozen miles away has fabulous views in all directions, but not much in the way of vegetation.

We encountered the same group of mountain bikers twice while on the Butano Loop Ridge Trail. They were doing the loop in the opposite direction, and we saw them going up and coming down. However, as far as I can tell bikes are not allowed on the Butano Loop Ridge Trail. It's narrow single track with a lot of blind turns, and a hiker/biker or biker/biker confrontation could be dangerous. Perhaps they simply thought they could get away with it. As far as I know, we were the only other people on the trail, so they probably thought no one would notice.

Descending through the redwood forest

After stopping along the ridge for a view-less lunch, we followed the long and winding trail through the forest back down to the Old Haul Road trail. We turned right and started the long trip back to the Portola Redwoods State Park headquarters. The trail is hard-packed, and our weary feet started to miss the comfortable padding of leaves on the Butano Loop Ridge Trail.

After a few miles, we finally reached the service road which would lead us back to the headquarters. We had originally planned to hike back along the Iverson Trail, but the section of the trail heading toward Tiptoe falls was closed due to fallen trees. So we took the paved service road instead. Eventually we ended up walking past campsites -- the wonderful smell of burning charcoal drifting through the air -- before we realized we'd missed a turn. We back-tracked a few hundred yards and soon were back at the headquarters, looking forward to a nice dinner.

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