Portola Redwoods State Park

A Secluded and Beautiful Redwood Forest

Portola Redwoods State Park is located in San Mateo County. Although it’s just a few miles from the Bay Area, Highway 35 is long and winding–a deterrent for many visitors. The park is situated within a deep redwood canyon. Eighteen miles of trails follow and cross over the park’s many creeks, and cool, quiet ravines offer respite to hikers. Portola Redwoods is a secluded place, and that’s exactly why it’s worth visiting.

The park includes a mixture of old-growth and second-growth redwood forests. Anyone willing to hike the 11-mile Peters Creek Loop will see a genuinely impressive grove of old-growth redwoods. Or wander a short distance from park headquarters to visit The Old Tree, a 305-foot tall, twelve-feet in diameter, 1,200-year old goliath.

Portola Redwoods is home to other noteworthy creatures, too. The endangered marbled murrelet, a plump seabird related to puffins, makes its nest on redwood branches. To its disadvantage, the bird prefers trees at least 200 years old. Creeks are home to endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.

Thousands of years ago, long before the Portola Redwoods became a state park, the Quiroste (pronounced Ki-raw’-stee) people lived off this land. In the 1860’s, European settlers began occupying the land, a century after Spanish missionaries arrived on the California coast. Ownership passed through several hands until the state bought the property in 1945.

The park is named after Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá, who in 1769 led an expedition along the San Mateo coast and to the San Francisco Bay. (This expedition, however, never actually reached Portola Redwoods.)

When You Visit

Portola Redwoods is open for hiking and picnicking year-round. With 18 miles of trail, there is good hiking (and strolling) to be had by all. Sequoia Nature Trail, a 1.6-mile loop along Pescadero Creek, is a fine option for families with small children. Interpretive signs line the trail and offer information about the surroundings.

An alternative route would be to take Iverson Trail, which connects to Sequoia Nature Trail. Iverson Trail leads to Tip Toe Falls, a 6-foot waterfall fed by Fall Creek. The fall tumbles over a mossy cliff into a circular pool.

The campground is open April through October. There are 52 family campgrounds, 4 large group campgrounds and 6 backcountry sites along the Slate Creek Trail. Amenities include restrooms, showers and drinking water. There are also 4 first-come first-serve sites for backpackers and cyclists, only $5 a spot!

Helpful Links

Portola Redwoods State Park website
Reserve America (campsite reservations)