Top 10 Redwood Trails 2022
The 10 best trails in the Santa Cruz mountains to see all types of Redwoods, in order of difficulty from easy to strenuous.
1. Redwood Grove Loop, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Difficulty: Easy, Accessible
Length: 0.8 mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: See the grove that launched the redwood conservation movement and Sempervirens Fund on this accessible trail featuring a cave-like hollow you can explore in the living old-growth “Fremont Tree” and a rare ghost redwood tree.
Trails: The Redwood Grove Loop Trail begins right next to the Visitors Center. You can read our full trail description here. Map
More Info: Read more about ghost redwoods.
photo by Ken Lund
2. Old Tree Trail, Portola Redwoods State Park
Difficulty: Easy, Kid-friendly
Length: 1.2 miles out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Deep within this redwood canyon Sempervirens Fund helped to protect, you’ll find a 1,200 year-old old-growth redwood named "Old Tree" —one of only 14 redwoods that stand over 300 feet tall in the Santa Cruz mountains. We continue to preserve forests near this secluded and serene park for people, wildlife, and the old-growth redwoods of tomorrow.
Trails: Old Tree Trail begins just off Portola Park State Road before the campgrounds, enjoy interpretive signs along the way to Old Tree at the end of this kid-friendly trail. Map, AllTrails
More Info: Read more about Portola Redwoods State Park.
photo by Johnson Earls
3. Tip Toe Falls, Portola Redwoods State Park
Length: 1.6 miles out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Travel through lush second-growth redwoods to see the remnants of "Shell Tree"—an old-growth redwood that was 2,000 years old and 17 feet in diameter when it succumbed to fire—and a "magical" 6 foot waterfall fed by Fall Creek which Sempervirens Fund is working to protect.
Trails: Start behind the Visitor's Center on Sequoia Nature Trail which meets with Iverson Trail. From Iverson Trail, turn right onto the Trail To Tip Toe Falls. Retrace your steps to return. The roundtrip typically takes about two hours. Map, AllTrails
More Info: Read more about Fall Creek
photo by Wayne Hsieh
4. Lime Kilns Trail, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Length: 3 mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: These trails showcase a story of resilience as you travel through a second-growth redwood forest that time and nature have restored. Since the old-growth forest was cut to fire the park namesake’s limestone kilns a century ago, Sempervirens Fund added the Fall Creek Unit to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. While the limestone kiln ruins remain, you’ll see as you travel along Fall Creek that the redwoods, madrones and tanoaks are reclaiming the area for the forest.
Trails: From Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park’s Fall Creek Unit parking lot off Felton Empire Road, follow Bennett Creek Trail over Bennet Creek and continue straight at the fork of Fall Creek Trail, follow along Fall Creek to South Fork Trail for a small loop and retrace your steps to return. Map, AllTrails
More Info: See more trails in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
photo by Wayne Hsieh
5. Cathedral Redwoods, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Length: 4 miles out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Travel some of the trails less taken along the San Lorenzo River to a beautiful fairy circle of second-growth redwoods that look like nature's cathedral with an optional trip to Cable Car Beach. Since first advocating for the park's preservation in 1900, Sempervirens Fund has protected three more properties in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park area including redwood forests and magical fairy rings like these.
Trails: From behind the Visitors Center take Pipeline Road as it meanders along the San Lorenzo River. After you cross the river, take Rincon Fire Road. When you reach the three-way trail junction, take Big Rock Hole Trail on the right to reach Cathedral Grove. Retrace your steps to return or turn onto River Trail from Rincon Fire Road to visit Cable Car Beach. Then, continue on River Trail back to the Visitor’s Center. Map
More Info: Read more about what really makes redwood fairy rings so magical.
photo by Yuval Helfman
6. Slate Creek Loop, Portola Redwoods State Park
Length: 5.4 mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: Enjoy the seclusion and serenity in the shade of beautiful second-growth redwoods on the way to one of visitors favorite trail camps in the Santa Cruz mountains, Slate Creek Trail Camp, and enjoy a snack or lunch above Slate Creek.
Sempervirens Fund helped protect these quiet redwood forests in 1945, and thanks to supporters like you, continues to protect land for people and wildlife to enjoy in Portola Redwoods State Park for generations to come.
Trails: Begin on Old Tree Trail just off Portola Park State Road before the campgrounds. Turn left on Slate Creek Trail and around the half-mile point when the trail forks, go right. At the next trail fork, turn left to stay on Slate Creek Trail for an out and back to visit Slate Creek Trail Camp. To head back, take Slate Creek Trail back down to the fork and turn left onto Summit Trail, and then right on Portola State Park Road to return to the lot. Map, AllTrails
More Info: See more trails in Portola Redwoods State Park
photo by Airplane Journal
7. Timberview and Gordon Mill, El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
Length: 5.8 mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: Hiking through the forest you may not suspect they are second-growth but El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve is literally named for the heavy logging that took place here before it was protected. Since then, Sempervirens Fund helped grow the Preserve to 2,906-acres and 34-miles of trails you can enjoy today. Visit two old-growth redwoods that survived, including “Methuselah”, the largest redwood currently accessible in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Trails: From the Preserve’s Gate CM02, take the Methuselah Trail to the Timberview Trail and the follow sign to the old-growth redwood. After taking in the old-growth’s great heights, return to Timberview Trail. For a shorter out and back trip, turn right onto Timberview Trail to return. For the full loop, turn left onto Timberview Trail and then take Gordon Mill Trail. When you reach Sierra Morena Trail turn left to get back to Gate CM02. Once back to the gate, carefully cross Skyline Boulevard to the short trail to see Methuselah. Map, AllTrails
More Info: Read more about El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
photo by Peter Thoeny
8. Saratoga Gap Trail to Castle Rock Trail Camp, Castle Rock State Park
Length: 7+ mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: Venture through Castle Rock State Park’s diverse habitats to see some of its most extraordinary features such as rare old-growth dwarf redwoods, Castle Rock Falls, Goat Rock, and great views from both Russell Point and Emily Observation Point all in one loop! Since helping to create Castle Rock State Park in 1968, Sempervirens Fund supporters have added more than 4,000 acres to the park and the new Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance where you'll begin your trip.
Trails: From the Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance (with flush toilets!), head down Saratoga Gap Trail to Castle Rock Trail Camp where amenities include water, picnic tables, and pit toilets. On the way back, take Ridge Trail to Saratoga Gap Trail back to the entrance. If you want a longer trip, include a quick trip to Castle Rock on the Castle Rock Trail. If you want a shorter trip, Saratoga Gap Trail and Ridge Trail meet before Castle Rock Trail Camp near Craig Springs Creek. Map, AllTrails (shorter trip)
More Info: Read more about Castle Rock State Park
photo by Russell Ferretti-Hoyle
9. Lawrence Creek Trail, El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space
Difficulty: Moderate or Difficult, Choose Your Own Adventure!
Length: 4.2 mile out and back or 7.7 mile loop
What You’ll See/Highlights: This trail leads through a less visited second-growth redwood forest in the park which means you'll have the best chance of enjoying the tranquility of the redwoods and the sounds of Lawrence Creek. The loop includes a trip to an old-growth redwood tree that survived in this once heavily logged area before it was preserved. Since then, Sempervirens Fund has added 31 more acres of redwood forests to El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve for you to enjoy.
Trails: From Gate CM06 off Bear Gulch Road, follow the trailhead for 0.2 miles and go left to Lawrence Creek Trail. Stay on Lawrence Creek Trail for about 2 more miles to its end at Timberview Trail. For the shorter adventure, retrace your steps to head back to the lot. For the longer loop, head left onto Timberview Trail to see one of the only surviving old-growth redwoods in the park. After visiting the old-growth, turn right onto Crosscut Trail, then right onto Crossover Trail, and right on Gordon Mill Trail. Follow Gordon Mill back to Lawrence Creek Trail and make your way back to the gate. Map
More Info: See more trails in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
photo by Andrew Sorensen
10. Peters Creek Loop, Portola Redwoods State Park
Length: 11.9 mile out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Visit what’s been called one of the most rewarding trails in the Bay Area under the lavish canopies of second-growth redwoods and tanoaks to reach a remote and ancient grove of old-growth redwoods called Peters Grove. In the future, Peter's Creek Grove may become more accessible thanks to new lands Sempervirens Fund has protected. Until then, challenging climbs in and out–which likely protected these ancient trees from logging over a century ago–are the only way to experience what some have found to be the most awe-inspiring grove in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Trails: Take Old Tree Trail to Slate Creek Trail, turn left on Bear Creek Trail, loop around the grove, and backtrack to return. Map
More Info: Read about how to make Peters Creek Grove a backpacking trip.
photo by Wayne Hsieh
While the 2020 CZU fire closed some of our favorite parks and left an enormous amount of destruction and loss in its wake across the region, frequent low intensity fires have been a natural part of our ecosystem and many native plants have adapted with it. You can learn more about rare plants called “fire followers” and find trails in their habitats in the Santa Cruz mountains in our Wildflowers After Wildfire Guide or check out more activities in the Santa Cruz mountains below.