I have been wanting to check out the Peters Creek grove of old growth redwoods in Portola State Park for awhile. The state park is very close to the Bay Area population centers, but is guarded by a long and windy mountain road where there is sometimes a lane divider and sometimes not. Fortunately, the drive is gorgeous with awesome views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Tucked away in the northeast corner of the park is the third largest stand of old growth redwoods on the San Francisco Peninsula, known as the Peters Creek Grove. Unlike the easily accessible groves in nearby Big Basin Park and Henry Cowell Park, it is a 5.5 mile trek up and over a ridge just to reach this grove. An excerpt from the State Park’s description of the hike sums it up best:
“This long and strenuous hike takes you to some of the most spectacular old growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains… you will have the place to yourself. The descent [from the ridge] is like going back in time to a land of old growth giants and beautiful creekside habitat… allow[ing] you to imagine what these mountains were like 200 years ago.”
Indeed, the remoteness of this grove gives it a wild and prehistoric feeling. On this day there was a strong inversion with temperatures in the 50’s at the start, 80’s on the ridge, and 50’s again in Peters Creek. It was refreshing to descend into the cool redwood groves, and once inside, the lushness made me feel like it was a scene out of Jurassic Park! Unfortunately, the steep ascent back up to the hot ridge was not as refreshing. I also switched out the watch for a camera on this run and snapped some nice shots of these majestic giants.
It is tough to imagine how humans once (and some still do) saw nothing more than a 2×4 and a price tag on these trees. I am just thankful that some pockets of old growth were sparred. Fortunately, it has been nearly 150 years since the Santa Cruz Mountains were logged and the second growth is starting to take on the characteristics of the old growth groves.