Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Reserve: Day Hike: 5 miles

My goal is to hike once every week, and this weekend we decided to visit Bear Creek Redwoods.

Stephen worked for Midpeninsula Regional Open Space as a seasonal for a few years. His last season, he spent much time at the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Reserve. I heard several stories about building the trails leading up to the public opening in 2019. Therefore, it was time to visit.


“At one time, the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were covered with old-growth redwood forests with trees several hundred years old. In 1934, the majority of what is now Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve was sold to the Jesuits, who established a theological college, the first of its kind on the west coast.

The college closed in 1969, and the property was slated to be developed into a golf course and luxury estates. Local conservationists advocated voiced their concerns about environmental damage from the proposed development. Meanwhile, Midpen and POST worked together to buy the property so it could be protected in perpetuity. In 1999, thanks to state grants and generous private donations, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was created at last.” – from Midpeninsula Regional Open Space website.


The night before our hike, I downloaded the map to my phone and planned our hike from my desktop since it is easier to plan from my desktop. If we hiked the loop, it’s 5.4 miles, and with the Madrone Knoll, it’s an additional 2.2 miles. Therefore I had planned for 7.6 miles and packed accordingly.

Lately, it’s been busier than usual at the parks. The parking lot is tiny, and it’s the weekend. Therefore if we leave at 6 am, there is no way I can function and pack around 5 am. Best to pack the night before.


All of this information can be found here.

Trail Map of Poganip Park


5.4 miles; 800′ Elevation
7.6 miles; 1400′ Elevation
Elevation Start: 1000′

2-3.5 Hours

2 Liters Total
1.5 Reservoir/Camelback 20oz reusable water bottle

Quest Bar

Lens cloth
Poop Scoop
Nuun Sport

Running Shoes
Tall Socks
Hiking Skort
Long Sleeve
Rain Jacket

60’s and Raining

Small parking lot
Fills up quickly before 8am
Arrive at 6:30am.

Water for Hiking Mileage Ratio

5 miles = 1 liter minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal

Hike: 7.6 miles 1400′ elevation, 3-4 hours
2 Liters of Water

Hot Hikes: Water to Hiking Mileage Ratio:
5 miles = 1 Liter of Regular Water;
1 Liter of Water with Electrolytes, preferably Nuun Sport maybe with Caffeine for a mid-hike energy boost.


We were hesitant with the arrival time because it usually gets packed on the weekends. We would arrive precisely at 6:30 am, but since it’s raining, we were not as stressed. We arrived at 6:45 am, and there were only two other cars there. Yep, hiking during the rain is one of the best times to hike, especially during the most popular parks.

If you decide to look at the bulletin boards, you will see the map and COVID19 signs.


We started taking off the Alma Trail because there is no other option to start the hike. One of the first things I noticed is the wide road, which is perfect for the 6ft social distancing protocol.

It’s a moderate climb and lots of shade. It reminds me of Big Basin, especially since there are no overlooks, open expanses, or vista points. You’re in the forest the entire time.

You can also spot an upward path to a former house, and there is a picket fence. If you walk further, you can see the driveway.

We decided to continue onto Alma Trail when we came across the junction because it is a steeper climb. We prefer to get the difficult section out of the way first.

Additionally, the Redwood Spring Trail is a bit muddy and a long gradual climb up or down. We would prefer to a steeper uphill and gradual downhill versus gradual uphill and steep downhill. My knees feel it the most is not the most fabulous way.

As you continue to hike, you will find old-growth trees per the map. If you look closely, you will find an old stump where they drilled to the core, placed an explosive, and blew it half to make the trail safe.

One of my favorite pictures of the hike is the one near the bridge. When you find it, please stop, look around the old-growth trees, and soak the beauty.

The magical views continues.

When we came across the next trail junction, we made a difficult decision not to go up to Madrone Knoll because of the rain. It’s ok. We can always visit next time. Stephen told me there are no vista points or overlooks. Therefore, there isn’t any incentive to hiking it in the rain unless we wanted to hike 7.5 miles and hiking another 800′ of elevation in 2.2 miles.

Off to the Redwood Spring Trail we go, and usually, we are more than halfway finished subconsciously we lighten up our moods and have more fun with our hike. The first thing we do: hug a redwood tree. The Redwood Spring Trail is easy and gentle on the knees downhill since it’s gradual.

On the final descent to connect back onto the Alma trail can be muddy, therefore please be conscious when going downhill.

It felt good to connect back to the Alma Trail and knowing we are close to the parking lot. Soon we started seeing a lot more people starting their hikes.

When we arrived at the parking lot, we walked the Upper Lake Loop Trail near the parking lot, which is .2 miles. If you look closely, you will spots rocks with holes in it. It’s a mortar hole. It’s used to crush acorns, and it’s from tribes who once lived in the Santa Cruz mountains.

On the loop you can spot the closed restrooms and the closed Jesuit Theological college. Pretty cool stuf!

One thing I had never seen in my life is a boot brush. Stephen said they have this at his work, and it’s common to use to clean your shoes before entering the office or, in this case, your car. Feel free to use it before you go back to your vehicle. It’s near the bulletin boards in the parking lot.

Overall, we had a fun day, and glad I went outside and caught some fresh air. I’ve never been so excited to get out of my apartment and smell the fresh air. Smelling those pine trees was refreshing after being inside for weeks and months.


Lastly, please remember to leave LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND and leave it better than you found it. Pack your trash. You brought it in, and you can take it out and properly dispose of it.

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