Trail Report: Purisima Creek Redwoods (Bay Area)

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A few days ago I went for a run in the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve on the San Francisco Peninsula. My 14 mile loop was both a challenge, and beautiful, and followed the North Ridge, Harkins Ridge, Purisima Creek, Borden Hatch Mill, Grabtown Gulch, and Craig Britton Trails. Thanks to the wonders of the Garmin 310xt and google maps, you can even see the plot of my run and feel awe at its awesomeness… okay, maybe not, but it’s still cool. This particular route I wouldn’t recommend for the weak at heart, however, as the elevation change exceeds 4,000 feet and my planned 2.5 hour run turned into a 3.5 hour run due, in part, to the elevation change (and also because I kept stopping to take pictures and enjoy the scenery). Additionally, although there were two restrooms, there was no facilities for water, so if you attempt this hike/run, make sure to bring plenty of water with you. Although I brought 16 ounces of cytomax, near the end, I was wishing I brought more. Fortunately for me, the temperatures in December were very mild: During the summer, you’ll want far more water than what I had.

From the trail head, the trails drop rapidly into the gulch, where you will move along the creek. The way down isn’t too bad – however, the way back becomes a challenge. In fact, at the beginning, you can take a “Hiker’s Only” path which adds .2 miles, but reduces the grade greatly. Running up the last .3 miles of the North Ridge is certain to turn your quads into jelly.

In the middle of this route is the Bordon Hatch Mill Trail, which, from the start of the Purisima Creek trail, proceeds straight up… and up… and up approximately 1,000 feet. Grabtown Gulch isn’t exactly a smooth descent, either, back in to the gulch to rejoin Purisima Creek Trail. To avoid the huge altitude change, simply stay on the Purisima Creek Trail to rejoin the Craig Britton Trail.

Ratings (1 = easy, 5=hard)
Difficulty: *****
Location: ****
Views: ***

From Bay Area Hiker here are a few details on finding the trail and its use:

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 92 west. Drive to the junction with CA 35 (Skyline Boulevard), and turn south. Drive about 4.25 miles, to the signed parking lot on the right side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 37°27’0.71″N
Longitude 122°20’19.22″W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
None in the immediate area. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Large parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at the information signboard. Wheelchair-accessible pit toilet on site. Pay phone just north of the trailhead (at the closed store). There is no direct public transportation to this preserve.

Most trails are multi-use. A few trails are open to hikers only. Dogs are not permitted in the preserve.