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Such a long name for a patch of forest! As in all of the surviving forested preserves in the San Francisco Bay Area, the majority of the redwoods here are second growth. Douglas firs are abundant too in this part of the Santa Cruz mountain range. In many parts of the Purisima Creek Preserve, you will encounter classic Mediterranean chaparral vegetation such as sagebrush, manzanita and madrone. The drive to the trailhead on Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) itself is quite scenic, as is the road that continues twisting down to Woodside. At the junction with La Honda (Highway 84) , the fabled Alice’s Restaurant is the favorite pit stop for motorcylists and other travelers. It was extremely crowded this Sunday so I did not stop to sample the fare.

Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, CA

Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, CA

Motorcycles fill up the busy parking lot at Alice's Restaurant

Motorcycles fill up the busy parking lot at Alice's Restaurant

Turning onto La Honda heading West towards the coast takes you through more beautiful rolling hills, past farms and the picturesque, ramshackle white Victorian stagecoach stop at San Gregorio, before arriving at Highway 1 at San Gregorio Beach.

Red barn seen from La Honda, Highway 84

Red barn seen from La Honda, Highway 84

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This small county park is a bit more than an hour’s drive south of San Francisco. It is hidden in the Santa Cruz mountain redwoods but can be easily reached from either Interstate 280 or Highway 1.  You will encounter very few people on the trails even on a weekend. I like the mix of shady forest and open sunlit meadows that provide views of redwood covered mountains in the distance.

Mountain and forest view from Sam McDonald Park

Mountain and forest view from Sam McDonald Park

As it is spring, the meadows are a lush green and it is very pleasant to lie on the soft grass and contemplate the view. By summer, the grass will dry to a brittle golden brown. A small cluster of old-growth redwoods can be seen at Heritage Grove.

Jack Brook Horse Camp is nestled in the hillside

Jack Brook Horse Camp is nestled in the hillside

An ideal spot to picnic in solitude is up at the Jack Brook Horse Camp with three small sites equipped with picnic tables. This location is much more attractive than the heavily shaded and noisy picnic areas around the Ranger Station’s parking lot. Apparently the horse camp is only operational from May 1st until November 15th so springtime is great for taking advantage of this space.

Overall the views at this park are pretty, but not jaw-dropping spectacular. This is simply a restful place to escape to when you need a quick getaway from urban life.

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