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Purisima Harkins Ridge - Whittemore Gulch, CA

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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Bay Area
Rated
3
3 of 5 by 1
 
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 6.67 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,033 feet
Elevation Gain 1,567 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,766 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.5
Interest Historic, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2012-02-04 JimmyLyding
19  2011-08-13 JimmyLyding
Author JimmyLyding
author avatar Guides 109
Routes 335
Photos 4,221
Trips 568 map ( 3,575 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Walnut Creek, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Oct, Jun, Apr → 5 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:50am - 6:20pm
Official Route
 
0 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Major Redwood Action
by JimmyLyding

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve about 30 miles south of San Francisco is one of the crown jewels of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District . The area's redwoods were almost completely logged in the late 19th- and early 20th Centuries, but redwoods can't be held down for long. Redwoods have the ability to sprout from stumps, root systems, or even their fallen brethren. While the redwoods at Purisima are undoubtedly impressive, they are only about 100 years old. These trees won't reach maturity until at least the 24th Century when they may grow to 300-feet-tall. People love redwoods, but it's often quite difficult to get a good view of an entire tree. However, this hike provides ample opportunity to enjoy great views of these titanic organisms.


The hike heads downhill from the trailhead on a short 0.3 mile spur trail to the beginnings of the North Ridge and Harkins Ridge Trails. Both trails end at the Higgins Canyon Road / Purisima Creek Road parking area at the junction of the Whittemore Gulch, Purisima Creek, and Walker Gulch drainages 1500' below. Harkins Ridge takes 3.0 miles to get to the other trailhead, and taking North Ridge before joining Whittemore Gulch Trails is 3.6 miles. However, Harkins Ridge has steep downhill portions that drop hundreds of feet punctuated by relatively flat stretches while Whittemore Gulch / North Ridge is a relatively mellow grade from top to bottom. There is also another 0.5 mile spur trail from the trailhead to the junction just north of the 0.3 mile spur.

Purisima Creek Redwoods is near the northern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains which run from Santa Cruz northward to just south of San Francisco. The mountains here take the form of a north-south spine at its highest point (along which Skyline Blvd. travels) with high ridges and deep drainages dropping off to the east and west. This park is on the west side of the mountains, and consequently enjoys the summer fog rolling in from the Pacific which can contribute as much as the equivalent of 10" of precipitation. These canyons and ridges also get pounded by rain in the winter so this park is best avoided then unless one is really into mud.

I went right onto Harkins Ridge (not knowing the respective grades of either route) to begin a steep descent. Harkins Ridge is a fire road that drops steeply over a route that features both steep and mellow stretches. 200 yards of steep descent followed by 100 yards of flat trail are the norm until it switchbacks to the east after about a mile. The flora here consists of a mosaic of Douglas fir, California bay, and tanoak interspersed with "soft" California coastal chaparral. This chaparral is referred to as "soft" because most of its indicator species lack spines or scratchy leaves. It still packs a punch, however, because poison oak is everywhere so stay on the trail.

Harkins Ridge enters the dense redwood forest of the Purisima Creek drainage after the switchback, but there are great redwood views for the next 0.5 mile as you can see entire trees. The trail makes a few switchbacks before reaching the deep redwood forest next to Purisima Creek. You may notice the Purisima Creek Trail on the other side of the creek that heads to another trailhead 2.5 miles south on Skyline Blvd. from your starting point. The last 0.5 mile follows the creek through the dark forest to a small bridge that leads to the lower parking area.

The Whittemore Gulch Trail heads northeast from the bridge and travels a few hundred feet above that creek gaining elevation the entire way. The trail crosses the creek after about a mile and continues up the north side of the drainage. This entire stretch goes through tall redwoods and Douglas firs that crowd out the sun, but wildflowers were very prominent in mid-August 2011 when I was here. Whittemore Gulch Trail switchbacks uphill to the north to the North Ridge Trail through soft chaparral and Douglas fir to a 3-way junction. Go right for 0.6 mile to reach the North Ridge Trail, go left for 0.1 mile to the North Ridge Trail then another 0.3 mile to meet the junction with the 0.6 mile route. There are some steep uphill stretches here, but the last mile back to the trailhead after the junction is pretty mellow.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2011-08-14 JimmyLyding
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Purisima Harkins Ridge - Whittemore Gulch
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I always enjoy this loop because it has such nice scenery, and is a great workout. I wanted to hike on Mount Tam on another bluebird Saturday, but that general vicinity is even more nuts than normal during Fleet Week. It was warm on the way down, and even warmer on the way back up so I got a serious sweat going. The views were great, and the sky was blue so all in all it was a pretty good day for a hike.
    The Blue Angels flew right over me on I-880 (one of the lamest freeways on earth) on their way to land at Oakland Int'l on the way home which was awesome.
    Purisima Harkins Ridge - Whittemore Gulch
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Purisima is cool. Did this with rdavisiii and my cousin. Lots of redwoods and lots of people. The weather was bizarre for this time of year: it's warm and spring-like when it should be rainy and crappy. We do need the rain, but the weather has had its benefits. This is one of the best hikes in the Bay Area for sure.

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take Highway 92 west from Interestate 280 to Skyline Blvd. / Highway 35. Travel south on Skyline for 4.5 miles to the trailhead. Parking for about 30 cars, and there's a vault toilet. I didn't notice any water source at the trailhead.
    page created by JimmyLyding on Aug 13 2011 10:16 pm
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