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Purisima Creek Grand Loop

 16 votes

19.1 Miles 30.7 Kilometers



4,273' 1,303 m


-4,279' -1,304 m


2,082' 635 m


441' 135 m



Avg Grade (5°)


Max Grade (14°)

All Clear

27 days agoUpdate

Mostly doubletrack and fire roads. Wow views, big trees, and tough climbing. Not technical.

Mikael Palner


Seasonal closures, check the Open Space website before going.
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.
Dogs: No Dogs

Need to Know

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.

History & Background

The preserve was established with a gift of $2 million from the Save-the-Redwoods League.


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4.1 from 16 votes

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Dec 27, 2017
Ryan Rogers
Dec 26, 2017
Salman Karbasi
Dec 22, 2017
Brian Campbell
I followed the "option 3" route. Whitemore Gulch was great. The 2 climbs were tough. 13mi — 3h 00m
Sep 10, 2017
Tomas Pasqualini
Very tough, lo g climbs but beutiful scenes 25mi
Aug 26, 2017
Steven Brewer
Aug 20, 2017
Jayant Mukho
Just did the creek trail anti-clockwise 10mi
May 6, 2017
Vincent Shen
Oct 29, 2016
Ronan Carrein
3h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 16 votes


  4.1 from 16 votes
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in California


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All Clear 27 days ago

Getting forecast...

Seems fairly non-technical, doable on a road bike? Nov 13, 2016
Mikael Palner
San Francisco, CA
Mikael Palner   San Francisco, CA
Hi David. I dont think a roadbike would be appropriate, but a cyclocros bike could definitely do Harkins Ridge (i dont think i would go downhill on this, it is really steep) and Purisima Creek Trail, and if you have good technical skills also the single track in Wittermore and Grabtown Gulch. Nov 14, 2016

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