The park has a rugged, natural basin forested with coast redwoods, Douglas fir and live oak. Eighteen miles of trails crisscross the canyon and its two streams, Peters Creek and Pescadero Creek. A short nature trail along Pescadero Creek introduces visitors to the natural history of the area. Visitors can see clam shells and other marine deposits from the time when the area was once covered by the ocean. The park has one of the tallest redwoods (300 feet high) in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Iverson, Summit, Slate Creek Trails 6 miles round trip; longer and shorter options possibleYou could call this tranquil park, perched on the opposite side of the Santa Cruz Mountains from Big Basin Redwoods State Park, ?Little Basin Redwoods State Park.? Like its well-known cousin, this park is a natural basin forested with coast redwoods. Portola Redwoods State Park it is, however, its name honoring explorer Don Gaspar de Portola, who led an expedition in search of Monterey Bay in 1769.
The California landscape has changed immeasurably since Portola?s time, but places like this park still evoke the feeling of wild California. This wild feeling begins outside the park boundaries as you travel Alpine Road. The view is of wide-open spaces, of uncluttered valleys and ridges topped with nothing more than grass and cows.
The park centers around two creeks?Peters and Pescadero?which meander through a basin. Douglas ﬁr and oaks cloak the ridges while redwoods, accompanied by huckleberry and ferns, cluster in cooler bottomlands.
Most redwoods in the area are second-growth trees; this land, like most in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was logged during the 19th century. However, most of ?logging? at Portola was for shingle production; trees needed a very straight grain and were selectively cut. Thus, many large trees escaped the ax and may be seen today inside the park.
The Islam Temple Shrine of San Francisco used the property as a summer retreat for its members from 1924 until 1945, when the state acquired the land. During the 1960s, Portola had an amusement park-feeling. Pescadero Creek was dammed, providing a large ﬁshing and swimming area. One year, 150,000 people poured into the small park. In 1974, the dam was removed and Portola reverted to quieter pursuits?camping, hiking, nature study. Rangers sometime refer to Portola as a ?neighborhood park,? meaning thus far only locals have discovered this ideal-for-a-family outing small redwood forest. My favorite day hike is a six mile ?walkabout? that utilizes ﬁve different trails. Drop in at the park visitor center to view the nature and history exhibits. Interpretive programs are conducted during the summer and on some weekends.