It’s no secret that some of the best redwood trails are located on the Central Coast. But while a few of the parks like Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park attract big crowds, there are others that you might have never even heard of before. Portola Redwoods State Park is one of those hidden gems!
Portola Redwoods State Park is a wonderful place to escape the summer heat. With a dense forest and 50 inches of rainfall per year, the trails within this park stay cool even when the summer temperatures start picking up.
In this post, we share tips for visiting Portola Redwoods State Park, the best hikes to do there, and what to expect if you plan to visit this stunning redwood park!
How To Access Portola Redwoods State Park
Before we dive into hiking details, here are a few tips for accessing Portola Redwoods State Park:
- Portola Redwoods State Park is tucked away in a remote mountain forest that can be difficult to reach. The windy Portola State Park Road is the only road that goes in and out of the park. The drive to Portola SP can be a bit nerve-wracking as you’ll need to drive along several narrow mountain roads with steep drop-offs below.
- Parking at Portola Redwoods State Park is very limited. I recommend arriving early so you can secure a parking spot, especially on the weekends. We arrived at 10 am on a Saturday and most of the parking was already taken.
- Upon arriving at the park, you will need to stop by the Visitor Center and pay a $10-day pass fee. At the Visitor Center, you can also check out a map of the park trails, ask rangers and park volunteers about the best hikes to do in this area, use the restroom and fill up on water.
- If parking by the Visitor Center is taken up, there is more parking available near trailheads and campgrounds.
- This State Park is located in a remote forest with no food, gas, or reception. Be sure to fill up on everything you may need for your visit before you arrive.
Google Map Location: Portola Redwoods State Park Visitor Center
Portola Redwoods State Park Camping
Many people enjoy coming to Portola Redwoods State Park for their camping options. This State Park offers beautiful campsites scattered in between towering redwood trees with plenty of shade and privacy.
A couple of things to note about camping at Portola Redwoods State Park:
- If you plan to go camping in the busy summer months, you will need to make reservations well ahead of time. State Park campgrounds can get booked up quickly so plan accordingly.
- There are several different sites available including standard campsites, family walk-in sites, and group camping areas. The regular campsites start at $35/night and the group sites go for around $335/night.
- The campsites come with a picnic table, a fire pit, and bear lockers for food storage.
- Paid showers are available at the main campground.
Campsites can be booked on Reserve California here.
Where To Stay Nearby
Besides camping at the Portola Redwoods State Park itself, accommodation choices in the area are pretty limited. Many people come to this state park for the day from nearby cities such as San Jose, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz.
All of the campsites during our visit were booked up so we stayed in Felton and drove an hour to this State Park.
If you’re coming from out of town as well, here are a few recommendations for where to stay nearby:
Juniper Hotel Cupertino is an impressive and modern hotel located in Cupertino, about an hour’s drive east of the Portola Redwoods State Park.
Each of the rooms at the Juniper Hotel Cupertino comes with a coffee maker and a desk if you need to catch up on some work while traveling. In the mornings you can enjoy New American breakfast or grab it to go before heading out to visit redwood parks for the day.
After a full day of adventuring, you can relax by the outdoor fire pit and enjoy a wine reception where you can try local wines. The hotel also offers a fitness center, outdoor pool, and free parking for the ultimate convenience.
This charming boutique hotel boasts 22 rooms, suites, and bungalows just a 40-minute drive from Portola Redwoods State Park. Surrounded by lush oak trees and the mountains, Saratoga Oaks Lodge offers peace and serenity, perfect after a full day of hiking and outdoor adventures.
Most rooms at this family-owned boutique lodge come with a balcony and a fireplace. Select units also include a seating area and jetted tubs. This hotel is conveniently located a walking distance to local restaurants and just a short drive from the Mountain Winery concert hall and wine-tasting venue.
Fern River Resort is a cabin-style resort nestled in a wooded property off Highway 9 that connects many historic logging towns and the surrounding Redwood State Parks. At the Fern River Resort, you can enjoy stunning views of towering redwood trees, lush gardens, and private river access.
The layout of the property ensures that guests have plenty of space and privacy. All of the cabins have their own designated parking spaces, entrances, and private decks with chairs to enjoy the garden views.
The rooms are furnished with a small table, a private bathroom, a TV, and coffee-making supplies. Other units may include a kitchenette or a fireplace.
Portola State Park Hikes
Portola Redwoods State Park boasts over 18 miles of trails of varying distances and difficulty levels.
While this is somewhat of a small redwood park compared to others in the area, there are plenty of hikes to choose from across 2800 acres of wilderness to keep you occupied for a day or two!
Here are some of our favorite trails that we hiked on our visit to Portola Redwoods State Park:
Sequoia Nature Trail
For first-time visitors, we recommend starting with the Sequoia Nature Trail. This is a popular day hike at Portola Redwoods State Park that leads to several redwood groves, a seasonal bridge, and provides access to a creek. This trail is flat making it a great hiking option for families with little kids.
This trail starts next to the Portola Redwoods State Park Visitor Center and goes in a short loop for 0.75 miles. If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, you can connect the Sequoia Nature Trail with several other trails at this park and extend the hike.
Along this loop, you can stop by Pescadero Creek and enjoy the lush scenery next to this meandering creek. In the summer season, you can take the bridge across the creek and continue the walk to Shell Tree.
The Shell Tree is a giant redwood tree that was over 2000 years old but unfortunately burned in a camping fire in 1989. Now visitors can see the shell of this enormous redwood tree earning its fitting name.
Old Tree Trail
The Old Tree Trail is one of the easiest and shortest hikes within the Portola Redwoods State Park that is fairly flat and only 1 mile long out and back.
The Old Tree Trail travels along a pathway in a forest and ends at a massive redwood tree that is more than 280 feet tall and 1200 years old. Along the trail, you can read many informative signs to learn more about these ancient giants.
Did you know that coastal redwoods are some of the tallest living organisms in the world? Some redwood trees are more than 360 feet tall and 2000 years old!
The foggy California central coast is the perfect location to call home for these unique trees. Redwood trees only grow in a narrow strip along the West Coast where they can get enough moisture from coastal fog. This is essential for their leaves and roots to keep growing, especially during drought years.
Iverson Trail To Tiptoe Falls
From the Sequoia Nature Trail, you can take a detour along the Iverson Trail to Tiptoe Falls, a small year-round waterfall hidden in the forest along the Pescadero Creek.
Along this 1.25-mile-long trail, you will pass several larger redwood clusters that look very towering. As soon as you enter this forest you can sense the temperatures drop and feel the stillness of the redwoods all around.
The main attraction of this hike is Tiptoe Falls which flows down Pescadero Creek. Tiptoe Falls is pretty small compared to other waterfalls, but it’s a great place to come and enjoy an afternoon break next to the cool river water. Along the waterfall base, you might spot salamanders or the bright yellow Banana Slugs that can be found in the surrounding redwood forests.
While Portola Redwoods State Park does allow dogs, furry four-legged friends are not permitted on most trails except for campgrounds, paved roads, and the Dog Trail.
The Dog Trail starts at the Portola Redwoods State Park Campground on the paved road that travels next to the campsites. It then continues on a wooded path along the Lower Escape Road and connects with Upper Escape Road for a 1.5-mile long loop.
Other Visitor Tips
- Before you head out to Portola Redwoods State Park, be sure to download an offline app for directions and hiking. We used the AllTrails hiking app to track our route as reception in these parts of the forest is nonexistent.
- For day visitors, the park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
- This area is home to mountain lions, coyotes, and other animals. Although mountain lion sightings are rare, always be on the lookout for wildlife.
- I always bring a first aid kit, a headlamp, and a portable phone charger, even on quick day hikes.
- Please follow the ‘Leave No Trace Principles’ when visiting the outdoors and leave places better than you found them.
Things To Do Near Portola Redwoods State Park
Portola Redwoods State Park is a wonderful hidden gem, but don’t miss out on other great things to do in the area as well!
Here are a few interesting places to visit near Santa Cruz:
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located along Highway 9 and covers 4650 acres of protected old-growth redwoods. This State Park is home to some of the oldest and tallest redwood tree species in the world that will simply leave you in awe!
For first-time park visitors, the 0.8-mile-long Redwood Grove Loop Trail is a great hiking choice. This loop features enormous redwood trees that were preserved in the 1800s from being logged. Some of the trees within this 40-acre grove are over 300 feet tall and 2,000 years old!
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a beautiful redwood park a short drive east of Santa Cruz. Enchanting redwood groves, waterfalls, fern-covered canyons, and historic logging sites are just a few of the things that you can experience in this stunning redwood forest!
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park has over 40 miles of hiking trails ranging in various distances and difficulty levels. A few popular trails include the Old Growth Loop, Aptos Rancho Trail, and Aptos Creek Fire Road.
If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, consider hiking the 7.5-mile-long Historic Loop Trail To Maple Falls. This trail provides amazing scenery, passes old mining sites, and ends at the stunning Maple Falls.
On our trips to visit the Central Coast redwoods, we typically stay in Felton. Tucked away in between towering redwood trees and historic logging communities, Felton is a wonderful vacation spot, especially for those who love outdoor activities and small-town charm. From serene redwood hikes to wooden-covered bridges and historic steam train rides, there are plenty of adventures awaiting you in Felton!
Felton is situated along Highway 9 which connects many of the nearby Redwood State Parks. From here you can also easily head down to the Santa Cruz coastline and spend a day soaking up the sunshine on the beach.
Portola Redwoods State Park is an incredible destination in Central California that offers serene hiking trails and the opportunity to walk amongst some of the tallest and oldest coastal redwoods in the world.
Looking for more things to do around the Central Coast? Check out these posts next:
- 15 Amazing Redwood Hikes Near Santa Cruz
- 12 Top Places To Stay In Santa Cruz For a Getaway To The Central Coast
- Review Of Camping At The Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
- How To Hike The Lime Kiln Trail In Fall Creek Unit, Felton
- 10 Top Rated Vacation Rentals & Hotels In Felton, California
- 15 Amazing Places To See Big Trees In California
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