Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve on the Bay Area Ridge Trail

APRIL 17, 2021 — Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve on The Coastside of the Santa Cruz Mountains features a second-growth redwood forest and ridgeline trails with views of the forest canopy and the Pacific Ocean. This segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail includes portions of the Purisima Creek, Craig Britton and Harkins Ridge trails. Find the trail map here.

We are hiking the 390-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. This is our first post. Sign up to follow our progress here.

Dan’s Journal

Our 390-mile hike-a-palooza began with a rerun. We had hiked these familiar trails near our home as recently as March. I even drafted a blog post. Rewrite is not my favorite pastime, but my personal sense of fengshui liked the idea of beginning our Ridge Trail adventure at a “home” preserve on the first paths dedicated to the project.

The Ridge Trail does not include the best portions of the Purisima Creek Trail. And the hike up the Harkins Ridge Trail is kind of a slog. On several grades I had to briefly resort to the heel-toe trick I embraced to survive much-longer climbs to glacial lakes in Argentina two winters ago. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort beyond logging Ridge Trail miles. Harkins Ridge is not Mount Fitz Roy.

But the Craig Britton Trail is a show-stopper. My first visit to a redwood forest was at Muir Woods National Monument back in 1984. This Midwestern native had never seen anything like these enormous trees towering above the still, fern-covered floor. The woodland along Craig Britton is Muir Woods but with skinnier trees and fewer people. I’m always happy to trade a bit of tree circumference for solitude.

Dawn’s Journal

My initial excitement of hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail dissolved into a weird trepidation last week as we tried to decide our first hike. Suddenly I didn’t even want to start — it just seemed too big and too hard. I walk 6-8 miles most days, so these trail segments are not a daunting physical challenge for me. But still my apprehension lingered. Will adding so much structure to my walks in the woods ruin them? Do I really want to deal with the transportation logistics of the point-to-point and the faraway hikes?

Maybe the key to getting started is to not think about the size and complexity of this whole thing. Just take a deep breath, pick a nearby trail … and start walking. So that’s what we did.

We chose the Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, which I have walked enough for it to be familiar and comfortable. The Craig Britton trail in this preserve is one of the most beautiful in the entire Bay Area, snaking from deep redwood forest up to stunning views of the fog line above the redwood canopy. And it felt right to start this adventure with such a familiar friend. 

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 6 out of 390 miles (sigh, not much yet)


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