Great White Loop


Byrne Trail (left) to Milliron Trail to Great White Loop to Byrne Trail (left) to Rattlesnake Trail
3 miles; 2 hours; moderate to rambunctious in a rainstorm

Pull up your bootstraps, shake out your limbs. The “Great White” awaits. It’s a rambling, mountainside romp to reach this 600-year-old redwood at the forest’s western edge. Along the way, you’ll catch some cracking views of the valley below and hike along more intimate trails at the park’s periphery.

From the parking lot, stay left at all forks to follow the Byrne Trail (west) for one mile. The sunny, wide track descends mildly past tanoak and berry tangles, then up into a shadier crease of bracken and redwood before opening up at a resting spot and vista of Pajaro Valley. Caretaker Jeff Helmer leaves water for pups and people along the way. You’ll also find a small box tucked under the bench with binoculars and a journal. Though you often have the trail to yourself, the journals and Helmer’s thoughtful additions create a more communal sense with which to savor your surroundings. Read of berry aromas and a “picnic in the clouds.” Or jot your own thoughts while bees buzz and forage in the manzanita’s early bloom.

Continue another quarter mile and, at the next small rest spot, take a left onto the Milliron Trail—a narrow, easy path tucking deeper into the shade of second-generation redwoods. You quickly come to the Great White Loop, more of a scramble in places, winding along the creek-carved hillside and over wood bridges. The going gets steep, but you'll find helpfully placed ropes by the side of the trail at the trickiest sections. The ravines are typically dry, but start to rush during a storm—the best time to take this hike, according to Helmer, if you don’t mind a little mudslide.

Sit a spell with the forest’s most venerated resident and follow the contours of its deeply trenched, woven bark. The Great White Redwood, more than 600 years old, is one of the few first-growth redwoods in this area to have survived the logging sweep at the turn of the century. Its hue is a result of good old-fashioned California sun-bleaching. Watch a video of tree climbers measuring the Great White Redwood.

Follow the loop back to Milliron, then take a left to continue along a different section of the Byrne Trail. You can stop by AJ’s Point of View on the way back.

—Garrett McAuliffe

Byrne Trail
Ten Amazing Facts About Redwoods
A Forester for The Trees

Back to Byrne-Milliron Forest.