Sweeping views of Half Moon Bay and the Pacific Ocean
HIGHLIGHTS: On the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this 3,360-acre preserve has tall redwoods and a lively creek, as well as ferns, berry bushes and wildflowers.
ACTIVITIES: The preserve’s 24 miles of trails and historical logging roads offer both easy walks and long, strenuous hikes and rides. Elevations range from 400 to 2,100 feet. Mountain biking and horseback riding are allowed on most trails; check the park’s website below for seasonal closures. RV parking is limited.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: 24 miles of trails, accessed from three locations. Dramatic views draw visitors to the trails on the park’s northeast side, just off Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35). If you’re after tall trees, try the short, flat Redwood Trail, which is also off Skyline at the park’s southeast entrance. At the west-side entrance, more giants reach skyward at the beginning of the Purisima Creek Trail. To get to this entrance from the intersections of Highways 92 and 1 in Half Moon Bay, travel south on Highway 1 for 3.5 miles. Turn left on Verde Road and travel one-quarter mile. Continue straight on what becomes Purisima Creek Road for 3.7 miles to the small parking lot.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: In the fall, bright yellow bigleaf maples light up the banks of Purisima Creek. Bring your binoculars and hone your “birding by ear” skills. In the spring and summer enjoy lush ferns and wildflowers in the redwood forest understory including trillium, columbine and fairy bells. Masses of ladybugs often overwinter on trailside vegetation near Purisima Creek.
HIDDEN GEMS: Some unusual redwoods can be found off-trail in the southwestern Lobitos Creek section of the Preserve. Among them, the Reiteration Tree has a buttressed secondary trunk, and the Chimney Tree has an open area, or “goose pen,” in the middle. If you’d like to see these and other remarkable trees, visit the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (external link) or contact them by phone at (650) 691-2150 to find out about free guided hikes.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Picnic tables, Whole Access Trail (Redwood Trail).
DOGS: Not allowed.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve (external link) or call (650) 691-1200.
EAT: For yummy comfort food and hilarious decor, try eating at Buck’s Restaurant (external link).
Megan Ferreira Derhammer, former staff member, says “Don’t miss stopping at San Benito Deli (external link) for a famous sandwich on their delicious fresh baked bread.”
STOP: Megan recommends browsing in the shops along Half Moon Bay’s Main Street.
FAVORITE HIKE: Head to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve via Higgins Canyon Road (or take Verde Road if you prefer slightly wider, less windy roads). After your hike, take Verde Road back to Highway 1 and stop at the Cowell Purisima trail (external link) for a sunset coastal walk along the bluffs (likely to include harbor seal sightings).
You can also try Soda Gulch Trail (external link) (hikers only). It’s a moderately inclined walk on a narrow track through gorgeous redwoods, punctuated by bridges over stream crossings. It’s also the best place in the park to listen and hear nothing but birds.
Tell us your favorite stops, hikes, places to eat, and more when visiting this park!
- Hike to the Lime Kilns
- Garden Planting and Wool Day
- Choose Your Own Adventure Tour
- Focusing on Flowers – Photography Hike
- Guided Redwood Walks
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Acres Protected by the League: 1,697
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