As I was planning this hike on the Bay Area Ridge Trail segment in Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, I was aware that there are two routes: one that is accessible to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, and a partial alternative route that is accessible only to hikers. I decided that I would plan for two hikes in order to explore all of the designated trail sections. By making each hike a balloon, or semi-loop, configuration I would hike each section once in each direction – which corresponds to my normal hiking mode of out-and-back hikes.
Another consideration was that I had a hiking trail map of the area that shows, among other useful information, the location of vista points along trails. There were an impressive 14 locations noted along the sections of Bay Area Ridge Trail within Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP: so 28 potential viewing opportunities for my two planned hikes. The Purisima Creek Trail does not have any vista points, but my planned southern semi-loop route would pass 9.
There are two trailheads, both along Skyline Blvd between CA-92 and CA-84. For this first hike I started at the southern trailhead, just north of Kings Mountain Road and across Skyline from the northern end of the Bay Area Ridge Trail segment that starts in Wunderlich County Park.
The Purisima Creek Trail proceeds generally east, and downhill, for 4.5 miles to the Higgins-Purisima Road parking area. From the lower parking area the route follows Harkins Ridge Trail back up to Skyline. Partway down the hill the Craig Britton trail traverses Soda and No Name Gulches between the Purisima Creek Trail and Harkins Ridge Trail. From the Britton Trail junction I completed the loop (3 sections of trail) in a clockwise direction, then backup the upper section of the Purisima Creek Trail.
Since the hike starts at the highest elevation, it is good to remember that what goes down must go back up (in order to return to the same trailhead). It’s just the opposite of starting a hike at the lowest point and climbing first!
Very near the beginning of the trail is the Amanda M. Dauber Memorial Grove of redwoods, giving an immediate preview of what the Purisima Creek Trail is like. Even though the redwoods are second-growth trees, they are still magnificent. There are a few other such memorial groves along the trail.
There are sunny spots here and there, and thistles can be found in these sunny areas. This one happened to have a visitor.
The Purisima Creek Trail is a former logging road. The trail itself is wide and relatively clear of rocks. The day of this hike was very pleasant, about 59 degrees, but the shade would be welcome on a warmer day.
Along the trail redwood tree stumps bear witness to the earlier logging activities. Some of these stumps are quite impressive in size.
In some areas I was struck by how many tree trunks were visible at once, all straight and parallel and looking very robust.
At the bottom end of Purisima Creek Trail the route crosses over the creek and climbs up the other side of the canyon. The Harkins Ridge Trail is generally sunnier and warmer than the Purisima Creek Trail. This is useful to have in mind when planning a hiking route. Perhaps ¾ mile up the Harkins Ridge Trail I heard rustling and peeping that indicated there were some quail nearby. I paused to give them time to cross the trail undisturbed.
I had marked the map copy in my waist pack with the locations of the vista points, so that I could keep track of when to turn around and look behind me. Several of these locations provided beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, with the nearly ever-present fog bank a few miles off-shore.
Most of the vista points were to the west, but a few were more to the northwest. I believe this is Montara Mountain, with additional fog behind it.
It was also possible to see another trail winding up the hillside; I think this is Whittemore Gulch Trail, which is also in Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.
After climbing about 1000 feet there is a junction with the northwest end of the Craig Britton Trail. Here I turned right to finish the loop back to the Purisima Creek Trail. The Britton Trail is a very nice single-track trail that winds through Soda Gulch and No Name Gulch – and drops about 500 feet before joining the Purisima Creek Trail. Along this trail I happened to notice an unusual tree with two lower trunks and two tops, but joined for some distance inbetween. I decided to call this tree the X chromosome tree.
After reaching the Purisima Creek Trail I continued climbing back up to Skyline Blvd. When I return to do my second hike in this Open Space Preserve, I will start at the north trailhead and hike down the Harkins Ridge Trail to enjoy the loop a second time.