Tarwater Trail via Pescadero Creek Park

A nearly 5-mile hike featuring gas and oil deposits, a dairy farm and one of the largest redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

4.7 miles RT; 3.5 hours; moderate. 700’ of climbing; Open to hikers and horses.

Wrapping a loop around Wally’s Creek and Pomponio Road through dense redwood groves and the twisting branches of oak forest, the Tarwater Loop Trail borrows the mellow grade of Tarwater and Shingle Mill Creeks. A good half-day outing, the trek can easily morph into an all adventure as the loop is overflowing with interest points. Glimpse the near past at the abandoned coastal dairy and shingle mill, harken back a thousand years or so with one of the largest redwoods living in the Santa Cruz Mountains today, and think back to ancient times when that natural gas and oil leaking into the aptly named Tarwater Creek was living happily as some prehistoric organism.

In the warmer months consider pulling an overnighter as the primitive Tarwater Trail Camp is just off the far end of the loop. Permits ($10), winter closure dates, and fire season flame restrictions are available at the Memorial Park Ranger Station, 650.879.0238.

The Tarwater Trail Trailhead is located near the first parking area in the park on Pomponio Road.

–– Clark Tate