Little Hike in the Big Woods

Hike a loop at Portola Redwoods State Park in the South Bay

Redwoods, river crossings, waterfalls, and wildflowers—the South Bay’s Portola Redwoods State Park packs a lot of nature’s best features. Enjoy them hiking this 2.5-mile loop.

Check in at the visitor center, then cross the bridge and park just beyond the picnic areas. From there, hike along the road as it passes tent campsites and the communal campfire center. (The park has 55 campsites, 4 group camp sites, and a trail camp; reserve online.) Turn right onto the Trail to Tiptoe Falls. High above, massive redwood trees stretch skyward, while at ground level, bright yellow banana slugs inch across the forest floor.

At the intersection with Pescadero Creek, hikers can remove their shoes (or bring water treads) and wade across the shallow river. On toasty weather days, the cool water feels luxurious! Follow the signs for Tiptoe Falls as they lead upriver to the waterfall, a great spot to kick back and relax.

Retrace your route back to the intersection, then turn left on Iverson Trail. Keep an eye out for the elegant iris flowers hidden among the enormous redwood trunks. As the trail descends toward the creek, slip off your shoes for the final river crossing, then continue another half mile back to the visitor center. Look closely for the bright blue clusters of California lilac on the short stretch back to the parking lot. Short hike, big beauty.

Portola Redwoods State Park is located at 9000 Portola State Park Rd. in La Honda. From Hwy. 35, turn west onto Alpine Rd., drive 3 miles, and turn onto Portola State Park Rd. The road dead-ends in the park. A $10 day-use fee will be collected at the visitor center. The park is open 6 a.m. to sunset, unless you’re camping overnight. No dogs on trails.

Story and photos by Heather Werner, @heath.wer.ner

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