Seeing the Forest and the Trees
Redwood Regional Park, Alameda County – French Trail: From the Canyon Meadow Staging Area, set a course north along the Stream Trail toward the Skyline Gate. Verdant grassy meadows and shadowy redwood groves trade off as you make your way parallel to Redwood Creek, where rainbow trout frequent the waters. From Skyline Gate, the West Ridge Trial will join with the French Trail, your ticket back. Ambling again amidst second-growth redwoods, switchbacks wind through madrone and bay woodlands, over a stone bridge, and eventually back to the parking lot. [Canyon Meadow Staging Area off Redwood Road; ~7.7 miles, moderate].
Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, San Mateo County – Purisima Creek: Depending on the season, observant hikers might glimpse newts (winter) or wildflowers (spring), even the occasional banana slug – the redwood forest floor mascot. Along the Soda Gulch and Purisima Creek trails, which meander along creeks of the same name, expect huckleberry, thimbleberry, toyon, and monkeyflower [Take the Higgins-Purisima Road off Highway 1; ~7 miles, moderate].
Wunderlich Park, San Mateo County – Redwood Flat and Salamander Flat: Here in the shadow of the redwoods, ferns and moss blanket the forest floor. Alambique Trail will take you past redwoods and tanoaks, Douglas-firs and black oaks, past rills seeping out of the canyon-sides. At The Crossroads, bear left and follow the Bear Gulch Trail through The Meadows, where wildflowers bloom in spring, then on to Redwood Flat. A left onto Redwood Trail will bring you to Salamander Flat, a formidable stand of redwoods worth taking a moment or two to enjoy [Off Highway 35/Skyline Boulevard, immediately south of Bear Gulch Road East; ~8 miles, moderate to strenuous].
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz County – Skyline-to-the-Sea/Sunset Trails: Set in the heart of Santa Cruz’s coast redwoods, Big Basin offers explorers a taste of the state’s first redwood state park. From park headquarters, follow the Redwood Trail west to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. After exploring the redwood underworld, take a right onto the Timms Creek Trail, and again onto the Sunset Trail. You’ll dip into the shadowy recesses of Kelly and West Waddell Creek (where you might find some trout), and cross over log bridges, in time returning to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail [Off Highway 236; ~6.2 miles, moderate].