Portola Redwoods State Park


What? : 

Portola Redwoods State Park is located deep in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The large and relatively isolated park cover both sides of the Pescadero creek mountains and few contributing streams from the north side of the main creek. All the landscape is covered by lash dense forest that include second and large old redwoods grout.

There are several hiking options that can fit all levels.

In this park you can find one of the most beautiful redwood groves in the Santa Cruz mountains.


Where? : 

The park is nested deep in Pescadero Creek at the central Santa Cruz mountains, 30 min drive west of highway 35 (skyline road).

From the junction of highway 35 and Alpine Rd. drive west (down) on Alpine road for 3.5 miles until you will see a turn to the left (straight) into Portola State park road. The windy road is the only road that goes in and out of the park.
Drive on this narrow road for additional 3.2 miles until you will reach the park visitor center on your right. Be carfull from traffic coming from the opposite direction.

Google Map Link


When? : 

Year round.

In my view the best time to visit this park is during the winter months when everything is green and lush, even when it rains or windy the large redwood forest protect you from the direct rain or wind.

Although that my preferable time to visit here is when it is raining this is also wonderful place to visit during summer day. With the park dense forest the trails within this park stay cool and you are fully protected from the sun.

Day use hours:
6am-Sunset (In severe weather the park might be closed.)

Visitor Center Open:
Monday through Sunday 9 am to 5 pm

Nearby Park Blogs:

Due note 1: When I’m writing this blog (Jan 2021) all the other Pescadero Creek Park Complex are still close to visitors, as a result of the wildfires of 2020 summer, so you can’t hike out of Portola boundaries.

Update from January 2024: All trails are open except for the Old Haul Road, which remains closed following fire damage in 2020 to neighboring Pescadero Creek County Park.


Due note 2: This is state park so need to pay 10$ entry fee.

If the office is open you can pay with credit card. Bring cache with you because office may be close so you need to pay by envelop…


Due note 3: The park has a large campsites and few picnic areas and it also have remote backpackers camping option.

Due Note 4: There is no cell reception, be sure to download an offline app for directions and hiking trails. You can get park brochure with trail map at the visitor center. There is also no foo, or gas at the park.

Due Note 5: Dogs are permitted only in campsites and picnic areas and on paved roads

Due Note 6: Drones are not allowed in the park.

Due Note 7: Maybe because of it remote location, from my experience this park do not attract many people so during most of my visit there weren't many people on the trails.

Due Note 8: If you plan to go camping in the busy summer months, you will need to make reservations well ahead of time.

My thoughts: 

I visit this park many times, also using it as a starting point for my hikes to the surrounding parks in Pescadero Creek. Unfortunately, all county parks are close due to the fires of 2020 summer.

I really like the long hike to the Redwood grove at Bear Creek, i think this is one of the most beautiful redwoods grove around San Francisco.


The visit:

Short hike (1.4 mile, Red on the map):

There are few hiking options near Pescadero river at the lower section of the park.

My recommended one:

From the Park Office and small Visitor Center take Iverson trail. Do not continue Pomponio or Coyote trails (close due to the fires) but keep going down all the way to the river crossing.

Here you need to cross the river, during summer there is a small bridge, but it is removed at winter. Usually it is possible to cross the Pescadero Creek by rocks-crossing without wetting your shoes.

Keep hiking on Iverson trail on the other side of the river and turn left at the Trail to Tiptoe Falls, cross the river back to the north side and climb to the road.

Here you can go back to the visitor center.


A 1.8 miles hiking addition can be to turn right on the road until you reach summit trail, turn left and start to climb the ridge. Once connecting to trail turn left on Slate Creek trail and go back down to the main road.


Peter’s Creek Redwood grove loop at Bear Creek (12 miles):

Although this hike is relatively long and challenging this is highly recommended hike.
It will take you to one of the most beautiful old large redwood grove.

This is one of my favorite redwood groves hike.

Because its location, relatively deep in the canyon 5 miles away from the visitor center, not many people hike to this place, even at weekends you may have it all to yourself.


From the Park Office walk on the park road to Old Tree trail on your left.

You can also park here after paying the park entrance fee.

You can hike and explore the redwoods groves along this trail, hike into the forest and enjoy the forest. The trail ends near the largest and most impressive tree and from here you need to walk back.

This will be 1 mile long out and back, overall 2 miles additions to your Bear Creek hike.

for keep hiking to Bear Creek soon after you get into the trail turn left into Slat Creek trail, from here the trail moderately climbed to the ridge.

After short climbing you will reach a trail junction. here you need to turn to the right, if you will keep heading straight you will walk down back to the campsite.

After passing Summit trail junction on your right keep hiking up.
At this section the trail pass through a nice forest section where everything is green.

Keep walking, the trail start leveling until you will reach the large opening in the forest where old roads are connecting, this will be 2.7 miles from the road.

You can't miss this trail junction, you will see here a restroom and a garbage disposal bin.

On your right you will see the entrance to Salt Creek Trail wilderness campground, the road to the left is close and the road to your right is Salt Creek trail.

Here you need to keep walking straight, heading on Bear Creek Trail. A good indication you are on the right trail is the warning singe on your right.
It is a reminder that from here to the Bear Creek and back it is 7 mile long and trail may be challenging.

Follow the wide trail that clearly signed as Bear Creek trail, the trail keeps climbing for another 1.4 miles until you will reach the hike highest point.

At this section of the trail, around ½ miles from the campsite, you can see an old rusty car in the woods on your right (easier to spot it on your way back), not clear how the car reach this remote place many years ago.

On my last time hiking here I "discover" another old car, not so far from the first one, on the left side of the trail.

At some point the trail start to level up and cross different kind of forest type, after a large turn to the right you will reach the hike highest point.

From highest point the trail sharply descends down the ridgeline into the creek.

This section if the trail is very steep and my be slippery in some sections when it is wet.
Along your hike you will need to cross, over, under and walk around several large falling trees.

As you hike down the forest trees change and you start to get into large redwood forest.

After for about 1.2 miles from the high point you will reach Bear Creek crossing.

At this area you will be amazed by the views of the huge redwoods, the creek and the large falling logs.

On and right after rainy days this small side creek has running water and you can see small waterfall 15 ft to the right.

There is no wooden bridge here and you cross over the large logs.

Keep walking for short distance on the other side of the creek, heading down stream and you will reach Peter’s Creek Redwood grove loop on the main creek.

This is about 1-mile long loop that will take you along Peters Creek that has running water year-round.

Here you will be surrounded by the huge redwood trees.

At the loop junction it is not so much important which direction you will take, I always turn left and doing the loop counterclockwise. Actually last time I visit here I turned right and indeed no difference :-)

At some point the trail is crossing Peters Creek to the other side. there are no bridges here so if during winter the water level is high you will get wet, something about ft height.

On the far side of the creek the trail climb on the mountain side and you are not walking near the water. Soon the trail descend and you need to cross the creek again.

the remote location, the hike effort, the running water stream just add to the amazing views of the large redwoods. I always enjoy my time here and try to take it slow.

After enjoying this magic place at the creek, you need to climb your way back up to the ridgetop crossing, this is a very steep climb back up so take it slow.

From the trail highest point you need to walk all the way back to the park headquarter.

What is nice that now this almost all the way down.