This is a close competitor for the doubletrack with the best scenery in the bay area. This trail has it all, ocean views, close contact with huge redwoods, fern canyons and creeks.
You'll feel like a Jedi flying between the redwoods on one of the descents. It's not very technical, with climbs mainly in the shade and on fire road, but it is the % incline on the climbs that makes this intermediate.
Also popular with hikers and equestrians, so watch the speed going downhill. To connect with El Corte de Madera, head right (southeast) from Borden Hatch Mill Trail
onto Grabtown Gulch Trail
and Tunitas Creek Rd to Swett Rd and then Skyline Blvd (Hwy 35).
Best to park at the smaller parking lot at the end of Purisima Creek Trail
, then start with a 2+-mile road to the North Ridge trailhead. You can also park here, but I feel that starting with the road ride is a good warm-up, rather than ending with a road ride.
From the North Ridge trailhead, rush down a wide descent for around 0.8 miles, this is a steep wide fireroad and hikers and equestrians are common so watch the speed.
Whittemore Gulch Trail
is what makes this location special. It's a 2.2-mile stretch of superbly flowing singletrack, with switchbacks, starting quite exposed to wind and sun, but never scary and ending in lush forest, fern canyons and with huge redwoods.
From here you have THREE options, none are easy:
1) Climb back up Harkins Ridge Trail
, which is a grueling 1500 feet climb in 3.2 miles, average incline of 10% with one section of technical roots. It is EVIL. Probably the hardest climb around, with a few hike-a-bike (15-20%) stretches and sun exposure. But it is worth it and will soon be forgotten because you get to do Whittemore Gulch Trail
a second time. This is the best option for a 2hr ride.
2) Take Purisima Creek Trail
out to the parking lot, it is a steady climb on fire road and in the shade with around 1200 feet in 2.8 miles, the average incline of 8.8%. It is a fire road and it boring riding but gorgeous views, nature, and trees..
3) After Whitemore Gulch Trail ride up Purisima Creek Trail
until a right turn to Borden Hatch Mill Trail
, which is a fire road / doubletrack, of 1000 feet in 2.6 miles there are stretches of serious incline but it is much more doable than Harkins Ridge due to the shade and resulting better grip. After Borden Hatch Mill Trail
, which you take Grabtown Gulch Trail
, a short doubletrack descent, back to Purisima Creek Trail
, a second stretch of singletrack, a little more technical than Whittemore Gulch Trail
, very pretty creek crossings and redwood tree dodging. Finish by going right at Purisima Creek Trail
and climbing your way back out the small parking lot.
This is in all a great ride, Whittemore Gulch is special for its flow and scenery and if you like climbing you'll GET what you came for.
The preserve was established with a gift of $2 million from the Save-the-Redwoods League.