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Purisima Creek Grand Loop

Intermediate
 4.1 (35) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

19.1

Miles

30.7

KM

15%

Singletrack

2,082' 635 m

High

441' 135 m

Low

4,273' 1,303 m

Up

4,279' 1,304 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

24%

Max Grade (14°)

Dogs No Dogs

E-Bikes Not Allowed

Seasonal closures, check the Open Space website before going.

Overview

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.

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).

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Mikael Palner with improvements by Nikhil Kadloor

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 35 votes

#520

Overall
  4.1 from 35 votes
5 Star
40%
4 Star
43%
3 Star
9%
2 Star
6%
1 Star
3%
Recommended Route Rankings

#75

in California

#520

Overall
122 Views Last Month
32,561 Since Apr 30, 2014
Intermediate

6%
6%
56%
9%
22%
0%

Photos

The top of Harkins Ridge awards my efforts
Apr 30, 2014 near Emerald…, CA
Purisima Scenery
Apr 30, 2014 near Highlan…, CA
Purisima Scenery
Apr 30, 2014 near Highlan…, CA
Whittemore Gulch Trail
Nov 2, 2020 near Half Mo…, CA
Rewarding view for climbing up the Harkins Ridge Trail
Nov 2, 2020 near Emerald…, CA
Vantage point from the first shaded area of trail before coming out to the dry section, which starts with a bit of crevasses and rocks that will lead you into the trail in sight, on the left.
Jul 18, 2019 near Half Mo…, CA

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 71 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Nov 19, 2022
Christoph Dressel
Aug 4, 2022
Guto Bacellar
14.8mi — 10h 36m
Jul 31, 2022
Nikhil Kadloor
No e-bikes (class2 and class3) allowed
Feb 6, 2022
David Velasco
Hardest and longest ride I've ever done! Intense but beautiful
Nov 28, 2021
Connor Yap
Jul 25, 2021
Kevin Jude
Did option 3 on tired legs. Great ride except the start on Skyline. I'd probably ride from Grabtown Gulch TH next time to avoid it. 13.2mi — 2h 40m
May 29, 2021
James Bishop
Bring your legs! 19.8mi — 2h 55m
Dec 4, 2020
Casey Cline
Fun ride - 1st time. Would be interesting to see how fast I can do the loop! 19.1mi — 1h 50m