A word of caution here, the full extent of this hike down to Peter’s Creek Loop trail is strenuous. After leaving the junction with Peter’s Creek Loop trail you are faced with a one-mile climb during which you will ascend over 1000 feet. When I was halfway down this slope I met a couple coming up and they confirmed what I found to be true; that this trail requires a number of stops on the way up unless you are extremely fit.
The hike will take you across numerous hillsides inside a redwood forest. For most of it, you will go out and return on the same trail; the only loop section is around Peter’s Creek. The path is in the forest a majority of the time, with a short exception at the 1600 foot level where you will find a narrow grass-covered section open to the sky.
The road into the park is relatively long and twisting. When you arrive you can park outside of the visitor center to pay your parking fee. There are toilets immediately behind the visitor center. When I visited in March the campgrounds were closed and so the roads to several parking areas were closed off. It appeared that most of the parking was in small bays immediately off the road through the park.
Starting the hike
You need to locate the Old Trees Trail and proceed a short distance before you find the Slate Creek Trail on your left-hand side. Don’t miss the turn because you can continue directly on the Old Tree Trail passing the amphitheater on your right and continuing up the hill until you run out of path; in fact this walk is pleasant and has a number of information panels teaching about the features and plants of the area.
First stage of the hike
You can continue to hike through the redwoods for about 3 miles until you come to the Page Mill site. During this 3 miles there are a couple of junctions but all you need to do is to stay on the Slate Creek trail. The Page Mill site is both a good point to stop and rest and perhaps to make a decision about whether you want to continue. If you decide to return from this point, you will still clock nearly 6 miles and enjoy a relatively undemanding walk in the redwoods. On the other hand if you decide to proceed as the sign warns you, there will be an additional 7 mile strenuous hike.
Second stage of the hike
Passing the warning sign you now follow the Bear Creek Trail for the next mile or so. This is a relatively easy climb to the summit point, which is hard to detect since although you’re out of the redwoods you are still surrounded by Douglas Fir and Live Oak. The path which now becomes narrower descends towards the junction with the Peters Creek Loop Trail. On the way down you might notice a couple of vehicles abandoned on the hillside – both are, I would guess, from the 1950s. What intrigues me about this is how these vehicles, or at least their remaining frames, got here in the first place. The car shows an obvious indentation in the roof suggesting a rollover.
You continue on down until you come to the junction for the loop trail.
In my case I went clockwise around the loop immediately crossing the Bear Creek. The creek was not running high, but the small waterfall still gurgled over the rocks adding to the tranquility of the moment.
The path continues alongside the creek until you have to make another crossing, which in my case, with the low water level, was relatively easy going from stone to stone. But I would imagine this might be a challenge after a heavy rain since the Creek was running about 10 feet wide and maybe a foot deep in places.
On the other side of the creek you appear to reverse direction and now follow the creek upstream until you cross Peter’s Creek again to take you back to the junction.
As mentioned you will spend the first mile climbing about 1000 feet. The trail varies considerably, sometimes on a gentle incline and sometimes steep. During the climb you may notice one or two places where you can see out of the forest and across the valley at the surrounding tree covered hills.
The remainder of the return is a straight repeat of the outbound journey.
Distance: Approx 11 Miles
Portola State Park – Redwoods and Peters Creek Loop at EveryTrail
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Things to note
- On the day I visited you had to self register for parking use.
- The day fee was $10.
- Payment is done through the standard small yellow envelope so make sure you take the appropriate bills/notes to pay the fee, because the slot where you post your envelope is very narrow.
Watch Out For:
- Stinging Nettles
- Poison Oak