Last week I had the opportunity to check out the Butano Ridge Loop (not to be confused with Butano State Park described here) in Pescadero Creek County Park which was another fantastic run in deep redwood forest. The loop itself is 10.3 miles, but it requires a couple miles each way to get to the start from either the Tarwater Trailhead in Pescadero Park or Portola Redwoods State Park (I started at Portola Redwoods). I made the loop larger by returning via the single track on the Pomponio Trail instead of the Old Haul Fire Road. My total mileage was about 14.5-15 miles and it took 110 minutes (1:50) with all but 20 minutes on lovely soft single track. The deep canyon of Pescadero Creek and the towering redwood forest really provide a feeling of solitude and wilderness on this run.
I started at Portola Redwoods State Park and took the Sequoia nature trail across Pescadero Creek. I missed the turnoff to the Iverson trail and ended up completing the mini Sequoia nature loop before seeing my mistake. This turned out to be the only routefinding error on the run. At the official junction with the Iverson trail I made a left and ran up towards Tiptoe Falls (running low this time of year) and then the Old Haul Road. At the Old Haul Road I turned left and ran a short section to the Portola Trail. The Portola Trail traverses the hillside in lush redwood forest and passes near a small falls at about the one mile marker. After the falls, the trail rises gradually up the ridge to meet up with the Butano Ridge Trail. The Butano Ridge Trail switchbacks up the hill with a steeper section near the top, all under thick, cool forest. The hill climb up Butano Ridge begins at less than 400 feet so there is a net of 1,600+ feet of elevation gain to the top of Butano Ridge.
Close to the crest of Butano Ridge, the trail reaches a junction, with the right side heading toward Big Basin State Park and the left side continuing the Butano Ridge loop. Here there was an unexpected nice section of relatively flat single track before reaching the Butano Ridge fire road. While you are atop the ridge, the views are limited due to thick forest coverage. The fire road is goes up and down the points along the ridge, sometimes steeply, with a net of downhill if you are doing the loop clockwise so it goes fast. I was surprised to reach the single track descending down the Butano Ridge so fast. The descent was awesome as it was perfectly graded to open it up with few obstructions on the trail to break the stride. I found myself running back into the deep canyon with the redwood forest getting thicker as I descended.
At the base of the Butano Ridge descent, I reached the Old Haul Road, and could have turned right to do the shortest loop, but instead continued the single track by running directly across onto the Shaw Flat Trail. I thought the redwoods were most impressive here with some real giants in a grove right by Pescadero Creek. There was also a fun crossing of Pescadero Creek on river rocks and a log spanning the stream. There are many junctions on the Shaw Flat Trail, but I kept following the signs for Pomponio Trail and ended up on the right path. The Pomponio Trail is highly enjoyable single track with rolling gradual hills. I kept following the Pomponio Trail, including a short section on road and then dirt road, all the way back to Portola Redwoods State Park, where the Pomponio Trail turns into the Iverson Trail for the latest half mile.
This was another great run on gorgeous trails in peaceful redwood forest. I am excited to return here to check out some of the other loops, including the Brook Loop out of Sam McDonald County Park and the Tarwater Trail Loop.
Route – 14.5-15 miles, 110 minutes:
- Portola Redwoods State Park – Sequoia Nature Trail
- Left on Iverson Trail connector
- Left on Iverson Trail
- Left on Old Haul Road
- Right on Portola Trail
- Left on Butano Ridge Trail
- Right at Butano Ridge junction
- Right onto Butano Ridge Fire Road
- Right on Butano Ridge Trail
- Straight across Old Haul Road to Shaw Flat Trail
- Right turns following signs for Pomponio Trail
- Straight onto Iverson Trail