A satisfying hike with deep forest, an airy mountain top, and some impressive old-growth redwoods.


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Sam McDonald Park, though not so well known, is home to some of the largest redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

According to [RedwoodHikes.com](http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Portola/HeritageGrove.html), the stand called Heritage Grove is where you’ll find the biggest ones, along with a particularly lush understory and a babbling stream.

The caveat is that the old-growth grove is quite small in number of trees.

It’s surrounded by large and attractive second-growth forest, though, and the whole hike to get there is enjoyable.

There’s also wide-open views from a ridgetop meadow as a bonus. Begin from the main parking lot in Sam McDonald County Park, and take the Heritage Grove Trail to begin the loop.

It leads through a dense grove of medium-sized redwoods, then through a long stretch of oak woodland before reaching the Heritage Grove.

There are two parts to the grove, a lower grove near the creek and an upper grove on the hillside.

The upper grove has the largest trees.

Take some time to admire the stature of the half dozen or so old-growth giants. From there, the trail continues uphill toward the Hiker’s Hut (which can be reserved for an overnight stay).

Beyond the hut, Towne Fire Road completes the loop by traversing the ridgeline.

On top, the forest has been cleared for pasture, and the fire road passes a horse ranch.

From open meadows you’ll overlook foliated mountains and valleys to the south⁠—a panorama quite different from the rest of the scenery on this loop. The fire road then re-enters the forest and heads downhill to join Big Tree Trail.

Impressive specimens stand out here and there, but most of the trees are medium-sized.

Look closely and you’ll notice the stumps indicative of past logging.

Shortly after passing the signed “Big Tree,” you’ll arrive back at the parking lot.

Note: If you are only interested in the old-growth Heritage Grove, and not the whole hike, you can access the grove on a short trail from Alpine Road.

There is a roadside trailhead with free parking, but only room for about 6 cars. Sources: http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Portola/Heritage.html https://www.littlegrunts.com/heritage-grove-sam-mcdonald-county-park/ https://parks.smcgov.org/sam-mcdonald-park-trails