Pescadero Creek County Park: Brook Trail Loop

A moderate to strenuous half-day hike under Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods at Pescadero Creek County Park featuring long valley views, skyscraping redwoods and a delightful mini-gorge complete with a waterfall built to scale.

8.2 miles RT; 4 hours; 1300 ft cum. elev gain; moderate to strenuous
Heritage Grove Trail —> Brook Trail —> Heritage Grove Trail

The Brook Trail via the Heritage Grove Trailhead (in Sam McDonald County Park) makes for a solid half-day hike spent climbing from one redwood-ridden valley streambed to the next by way of a wide-open ridge meadow. Views from the ridge range from a beautifully informative overview of the park and glimpses of the Pacific to a misty blurring of earth and sky. The trail, open to hikers and horses, cuts through mixed forest thickets of oak, madrone, bay laurel and knobcone pine in between.

Not too shabby, but the bottom of the trail along Towne Creek is the real must-see. The cheerful stream wanders through a pint-sized canyon, complete with a gorgeous grotto and miniature waterfall beneath towering trees. Perhaps it’s some trick of topography, or the intimacy of a narrow valley, but even when you know they are coming, the size of the redwoods shocks; a new discovery over and over again. Just when they become (nearly) commonplace, the wizened giants surprise again by shifting to a ghostly white hue, likely due to lichen.

Keep an eye out for the huckleberry thicket in the lowlands, especially in early fall when the bushes are bursting with tangy deep blue fruit.

Start at the Heritage Grove Trailhead parking lot in Sam McDonald Park, off Alpine Road. The first climb, along the Heritage Grove Trail, is short and blurred by the excitement of setting out. You'll see signs for the "Hikers Hut;" follow them. You'll reach Towne Fire Road and the ridge that marks the southern border of Sam McDonald Park and the northern border of Pescadero Creek Park. (The Hikers Hut is accessible via a short path off the fire road just a few yards from the intersection with Heritage Grove Trail. Run by the Sierra Club, it sleeps up to 14 and is available to rent for $20 per person and up.)

The Brook Trail Loop lies just beyond Towne Fire Road. After that a long, meandering downhill, with Brook Trail repeatedly crossing the fire road, delivers the goods. Then comes the upping. The climb is substantial and the grade is a bit steep, but it’s very doable for active folk.

The Brook Trail Loop can be completed in either direction. It really depends on how you take your uphills: those who like it short and steep, try clockwise; slow and steady sloggers, opt for counter.

The Heritage Grove Trailhead is just across the bridge from Sam McDonald Park’s Heritage Grove Trailhead parking area along Alpine Road, about a half-mile east of Pescadero Creek Road. Click here to see the general area on Google Maps.

—L. Clark Tate

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