GPS Location: 3605 Higgins Canyon Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Distance: 7 miles, Loop
Hiking Time: 3 to 5 hours
Elevation Gain/ Loss: ± 1150 feet
Best Times: All year
Park Rules No Dogs
Recommended Map Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve (MROSD) http://www.openspace.org/preserves/maps/pr_purisima.pdf
HIGHLIGHTS Using the Harkins Ridge Trail, this invigorating loop starts by climbing more than 1000 feet, from the shady confines of redwood-lined Purisima Creek to a ridge with superb views of Half Moon Bay and the surrounding hills. The relaxing return is via the delightful Soda Gulch and Purisima Creek trails, giving you an opportunity to learn about and enjoy the redwood-forest community that still thrives here despite extensive logging in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
DIRECTIONS From the intersection of Highway 1 and Higgins Purisima Road south of Half Moon Bay, take Higgins Purisima Road east 4.5 miles to a parking area, left.
FACILITIES/ TRAILHEAD None at the trailhead, which is at gate PC05, on the east side of the parking area. There is a toilet about 100 yards east on the Purisima Creek Trail.
The Official Story: http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_purisima.asp
MROSD field office:[masked]
Follow the Purisima Creek Trail, a dirt road, into a dense, secluded forest. After several hundred feet, you turn left, crossing lovely Purisima Creek on a wood bridge, and then come to a T-junction with the Harkins Ridge and Whittemore Gulch trails. The forest here includes coast redwood, red alder, bigleaf maple, and tanbark oak. The understory is made up of common shrubs such as coffeeberry, thimbleberry, gooseberry, creambush, and elk clover. Growing beside the road are shade-loving wildflowers such as miner’s lettuce, hedge nettle, forget-me-not, and two species of fairy bells, Hooker’s and Smith’s. A right turn puts you on the gently rolling Harkins Ridge Trail, a dirt road that for a while runs parallel to the redwood-bordered creek. The grade steepens, and soon you begin a series of sweeping switchbacks that bring you to a brighter, more open realm. The view to your right takes in the canyon holding Purisima Creek and the ridge rising just south of the creek to Bald Knob, more than 2000 feet above sea level. At one of the road’s right-hand switchbacks, you have a fine vantage point that looks west toward Half Moon Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Finally gaining a ridgetop, you follow it uphill over rough ground. In places the grade is very steep, stretching your calf muscles to their limit. Otherwise it is a long, steady climb on a moderate grade. At about 2.1 miles, you meet the Soda Gulch Trail, part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Here you turn right and follow the single-track trail, closed to bicycles and horses, across an open slope of coastal scrub.
Flower Bonanza Various wildflowers associated with redwood forests grow nearby, including redwood sorrel, which has clover-like leaves and pink flowers; columbine, told by its beautiful orange-and-yellow blossoms; starflower, each with a delicate flower held aloft on a thread-like stem; and red clintonia, a member of the lily family that produces clusters of pink blooms in early summer and blue berries later in the year.
Now descending via switchbacks, you pass a beautiful stand of coast live oaks, their twisted, gnarled limbs draped with lace lichen. A sudden transition brings you into the realm of the redwoods. A rest bench, left, invites you to spend a few minutes contemplating these towering giants in cool and shady surroundings. Some of the trees are fire-scarred, and some grow in so-called family circles around a fallen ancestor. As you continue to lose elevation on a gentle grade, you pass a second rest bench and several seasonal creeks. Soda Gulch, another tributary of Purisima Creek, is downhill and right. When you reach Soda Gulch, turn sharply right to cross a bridge that spans the creek bed. Soon the route emerges briefly onto an open hillside before ducking back into the redwoods. You descend to an unnamed tributary of Purisima Creek and cross it on a bridge, then zigzag uphill meet the Purisima Creek Trail, a dirt road, at about 4.7 miles.
Join the road by bearing right, then follow it downhill to Purisima Creek, which flows under the road through a culvert. You enjoy a level walk through a riparian corridor lush with red alder, hazelnut, elk clover, and red elderberry. Soon a bridge takes you across Purisima Creek, which is now on your left. The creek from Soda Gulch joins from the right, and you cross it on the next bridge. Look here for tiger lilies in late spring. On the left is a remnant of a bridge that once spanned Purisima Creek and provided a link with the Grabtown Gulch Trail until it was washed out during a flood. Descend on a moderate grade to the creek and cross it on a bridge, soon passing a junction with the Borden Hatch Mill Trail, left. One of Purisima Canyon’s many lumber mills stood in a nearby clearing. At about 7 miles, you pass a toilet, left, and then close the loop at the connector to the Whittemore Gulch and Harkins Ridge trails, right. From here, go straight and retrace your route about 100 yards to the parking area.
Content from Weintraub, David [masked]). Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide