Portola State Park and Vicinity

Portola State Park is on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the Pescadero Creek watershed. It is part of a complex of parks that includes San Mateo County's Memorial Park, Pescadero Creek Park, and Sam McDonald County Park. It touches Long Ridge Open Space Preseve and is not far from numerous other parks and preserves in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It is located in a deep valley at the base of Butano Ridge. Several creeks run through it. The campgrounds are located at the confluence of Pescadero Creek and Peters Creek. The park consists mostly of shady second growth redwood forests, though some of the largest old growth redwoods in San Mateo County are here. Besides the developed family and group campsites, the park has 3 trail camps for long-distance hikers.

There are 18 miles of trails through the 2800-acre park. The park headquarters are at one of the lowest points in the park, around 400 feet. Most of the trails lead uphill from there. There are several short, easy trails around the park headquarters. One is the Sequoia Trail, a self-guided nature loop, less than a mile long. The Old Tree Trail is another short trail that leads through a shady canyon to a single giant tree, the 12-foot diameter, 300-foot tall "Old Tree," one of the tallest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 3-mile Iverson Trail follows Pescadero Creek. Where it crosses Fall Creek is 5-foot Tiptoe Falls. The longest and most strenuous trail in the park is the Peters Creek Trail, which leads to the remote Peters Creek Grove of old-growth redwoods. It is a 13-mile round trip, gaining 1000 feet in elevation. Some trails link to neighboring parks, for even longer hikes. The Old Haul Road is an 18-mile route that can be taken by mountain bike from Portola State Park, through Pescadero County Park, to Memorial County Park. The Slate Creek Trail and Ward Road Trail can be taken to reach Long Ridge Open Space Preserve and the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The Basin Trail leads up the side of Butano Ridge, through Pescadero Creek County Park, along an easement through private land, and ends up at the China Grade Road in Big Basin State Park, a 6.8-mile hike with a 1917-foot gain in altitude.

Here are some views of Portola State Park and neighboring parks.Click on the thumbnails for larger views:

The creeks:

Pescadero Creek People near
Pescadero Creek
Peters Creek


The park facilities:

Group picnic
Open area by
Group campsite
Group campsite Road down
group campsite
Eating area by
group campsite


Big Trees:

The Old Tree
Portola SP
Heritage Grove
Sam McDonald
County Park
Big Trees
Heritage Grove
Sam McDonald



Russian Ridge OSP View of valley
from Summit Rock
Sanborn Skyline
County Park
View from Ridge
Trail of Saratoga
Gap Trail, Castle
Rock State Park



Summit Rock
Sanborn Skyline
County Park
Castle Rock Goat Rock
Castle Rock
State Park

Directions to the Park:

There are several ways to get to the park, depending on where you are coming from and how scenic you want to make the drive. The winding roads are unavoidable, but some are worse than others. Take it slow and be careful.
(See this map of the area.)

The shortest way:
I-280 to Page Mill Road west. Go west 12 miles up into the mountains. (Note, this gets increasingly winding. See this route and the parks along the way here.)
Near the base of the hills, you will pass Palo Alto Foothills Park on the right (open to Palo Alto residents only) and Foothills Open Space Preseve on the left. In the middle of the ascent, you will pass Los Trancos Open Space Preserve on the right and Monte Bello Open Space Preserve on the left. At the summit, Coal Creek Open Space Preserve will be on the right.
Cross Skyline Blvd. (Hwy 35). Just ahead, the road turns into Alpine Road, which is a very narrow and winding road. (You can see a map of this area here.)
Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve will be on your right, while Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve will be on your left.
After 6 miles, take the left fork, which is Portola State Park Road, 3 miles to the Portola State Park entrance.
(Note: this is a steep, narrow, winding road that drops down and dead ends at the park. It is the only public road into the park, so you can't avoid it.)
See this map of the park headquarters and campground area.

Alternate Route from the south:
Note: Hwy 9 is a faster and less twisty ascent up the mountains than Page Mill Road, but it runs for a long way along Skyline Blvd. Skyline Blvd. runs along the summit of the moutains and is fast and level, though slightly twisty. It is a favorite for motorcycle racers.
Get onto Hwy 9:
From the south: Hwy 17.
Exit in Los Gatos at Hwy 9.
From the north or east:
Hwy 85 to the Saratoga Avenue exit. Take Saratoga Avenue west.
Follow Hwy 9 through Saratoga, and climb the mountains.
Turn right on Skyline Blvd. Watch out for speeding motorcyclists.
At the Page Mill Road/Alpine Road intersection, turn left on Alpine Road.
Take the left fork, which is Portola State Park Road to Portola State Park entrance.

Another Alternate Route From the North:
Note: this route has a shorter ascent up the Santa Cruz Mountains than going up Page Mill Road.
I-280 to Woodside Road exit.
Take Woodside Road (Hwy 84) west.
At the junction with Portola Road, take the right fork (La Honda Road, still Hwy 84).
Either turn right on Hwy 35 and take the first route above (which is shorter),
Or continue on La Honda Road, as if you were going to Memorial Park.
At the junction, take the left fork to Pescadero Creek Road.
Keep going straight onto Alpine Road, instead of turning right to Memorial Park. (This road gets very winding towards the end.)
You will pass the Heritage Grove of Sam McDonald County Park, then Camp Pomponio Road on the right, which leads into Pescadero Creek County Park.
Ahead, take the right fork, which is Portola State Park Road to Portola State Park entrance.

The Coast Route:
This is the looooong way. You can take this in reverse to go home to take a scenic route along the coast.
Get to Hwy 1 from Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, or San Francisco.
Take Hwy 1 to Pescadero Creek Road, south of Pescadero State Beach.
Turn right on Alpine Road (see above).
Take the right fork, which is Portola State Park Road to Portola State Park entrance.
Alternatively, you can take Hwy 84 along the coast from San Gregorio all the way to Pescadero Creek Road, then follow the directions above.

Portola State Park Links:

Portola State Park Website, with directions
Some pictures of the park
Maps and panoramic views
Camping info
Campground map
Hiking - flora and fauna
Trail story
The Ancient Redwoods of Peters Creek

Other Parks:

Redwood Walks
State Parks
    Big Basin Redwoods State Park
    Castle Rock State Park
    Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
    Butano State Park
    San Gregorio State Beach
    Ano Nuevo State Reserve
    Wilder Ranch State Park
    Bean Hollow State Beach
    Pescadero State Beach
    Pomponio State Beach
Sanborn Skyline County Park
San Mateo County Parks
    Wunderlich County Park
    Huddart County Park
    Memorial County Park
    Pescadero Creek County Park views
Peninsula Trail Guide
Bay Area Backcountry
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
    Russian Ridge and Coal Creek OSP
    Skyline Ridge OSP
    Long Ridge and Saratoga Gap OSP
    Monte Bello OSP
    Fremont Older OSP
    Windy Hill OSP
    La Honda Creek OSP
    Los Trancos OSP
    Foothills OSP
    Thornewood OSP
    Rancho San Antonio OSP
    El Corte de Madera OSP
    Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP
Bay Area Ridge Trail
Singletrack Mountain Biking in Southern San Francisco Bay Region
Adventures during a 50-mile run
Camping Close to Home - San Mateo County parks provide ideal weekend getaways
Peninsula Packed With Gems for Hikers
From Waterfalls to Trails, Nature Is a Short Drive From City
Peninsula campers explore great outdoors close to home
Pictures of the Bay Area
Palo Alto Area Camping
Happy Campers State Parks and Monuments
Good hiking trails and waterfalls in the Santa Cruz Mountains
San Francisco Bay Area Bike Rides
Bay Area Parks
Peninsula and South Bay Parks
Charcoal Rd., Ward Rd., and other treats
The Outsider Archives - Bay Area Stories
Waterfalls! Waterfalls! Waterfalls! Bay Area's 20 hidden treasures are simply spectacular
Bay to Breakers X 7 - Logistics of a 50-mile trail run
San Francisco Bay Area Hiking Trails
SMARTPages Parks - San Mateo County
SMARTPages Parks - Santa Cruz County
SMARTPages Parks - Santa Clara County
Where Do Local Girl Scout Troops Go On Overnight Trips?
Destinations.mountains - Coastal Redwood Forests
Links to parks, hiking and environmental organizations
Explorer1 Central Coast Camping Guide

My Pages

Bay Area Back Pages
Bay Area Hiking
San Francisco Bay Area Travel and Recreation Pages

Created 8/10/00 pm, by Ronald Horii