Tarwater Trail Loop

EASY 35 reviews

Tarwater Trail Loop is a 5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near La Honda, California that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

5.0 miles
767 feet

kid friendly



horseback riding

nature trips

trail running





wild flowers

no dogs

This is one of the better redwood hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area -- which is nice because not so long there was no forest left here: almost all of it had been clear-cut. The second-growth redwoods at Pescadero Creek County Park demonstrate a forest's uncanny ability to regenerate itself, if people give it the chance. Several groves of skinny young redwoods are rapidly reclaiming this section of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Best time to go: Since this is mostly shady forest walking, it's a good escape from the heat in the summer. Spring wildflower season is always gorgeous and even the rainy season will be pretty nice in the redwoods.

2 months ago

The Tarwater Loop is a great outing, if you don’t mind hikes that end with a long uphill walk. The best way to do it, especially on a hot day, is to start on the right side of the loop - take the Tarwater trail DOWN and come back UP via the shaded Shingle Mill Trail. Along the way you’ll see some interesting remnants of the past – the old garage (not a cabin) was just one of the outbuildings on this former cattle ranch that long ago was a big producer of local cheese. A section of old steam engine remains on the Shingle Mill Trail – evidence of the logging operations that continued up into the 1960s here - and a great place to stop for lunch or snack. There is NO RIVER as claimed in the All Trails description; only Tarwater Creek and you will only encounter it by taking a slight detour off the loop from the Old Haul Road towards the Canyon Trail. I’ve done this hike many times over the years and love it all seasons but the trail can be terrible muddy in winter & sometimes trail sections get closed so check the website before driving out. I've taken older kids on this hike but don't recommend for under 6 years. This is a more primitive piece of the park with no restrooms, water, or picnic facilities.

3 months ago

Unique experience partly because of non existent traffic. A few things made me wonder if the trail was actually closed e.g. no other hikers, broken trees, a not opening gate, etc. Anyways, this is indeed a great trail. Saw some impressive redwood trees in the earlier part of the trail.

11 months ago

Nice trail in and out of redwoods and oaks.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Pretty good loop trail. There were dry grassy meadows, a neat abandoned cabin, a cool looking bridge,and some awesome Redwood groves. Had a little bit of everything. Not a lot of people on the trail. Bring bug repellant. The meadows areas had narrow trails- watch out for ticks, we saw some.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Perfect 4 hour hike. Beautiful views of rolling hills at beginning of Tarwater trail head. Then the trail moves in into the Redwood Forrest. The trail is well maintained but there is one large tree that just fell over the Pomponio trail 1.25 mi from

Monday, June 26, 2017

Really underrated trail. There was only four cars parked at the trailhead and we saw no more than a half dozen people on the trail even though it was a sunny Saturday. The last mile is slightly different than the Alltrails Map, with more switchbacks closer to Camp Pomponio Rd. The last mile is completely exposed, can be rough on a hot day. Make sure to check yourself for ticks after the hike.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Not an easy Trailhead to find - really small one lane road (more like a path) to get to the TH. Other than that - really liked the hike. A lot of variety. The redwoods are good but it is a little buggy. Not sure the trails are that well marked once you get to the bottom. Wasnt very busy if you get there early

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Dogs OK, but I would not recommend for kids as the way back is nonstop uphill. I went back on the camp ___ Rd. I missed that I had to walk a little further on the camp Rd to pick up the tar water trail for the way back. I finished quicker, but missed half the trail. First half of trail was lovely.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Nice remote trailhead to cut down on crowds. Some of the Trail names have changed and there is an excellent trail signage map system through the county parks in this area. One leg of the featured loop is closed to mud slides so you can do an out and back on Tarwater or other loops that are longer than this hike. Nice mix of meadows and forests. Plenty of wildflowers!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

If you are allergic to poison oaks, do not come here.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Hiked in Jan right after a rain so the trail was muddy about 1/3 of the distance. Only saw 3 other people. Extended it just a bit to see part of Pomponio trail, so about 6 total miles and 3 hours, including stops to take several pics. So about 2.5 hours hiking time. But I'm writing this review to notify everyone that a lot of the trails in the area have been renamed. So part of what used to be the Tarwater trail is now the Shingle Mill trail. But the trailhead has a nice map and they've published a new one dated Nov 2015. The trail junctions have new signs and they are number coded. Kudos to the county for these new signs. Everyone should go to this new system. Takes a lot of doubt out of "where are we?"

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Fun trail! The open rolling meadows are gorgeous, we came across an abandoned cabin which was my favorite part. Gigantic redwood tree blew my mind - visiting from the Midwest and have never seen a tree so mesmerizing!!
The jail was really creepy - would be fun to do this around Halloween. We didn't walk all the way back, it appears to be in use for some other reason. A fun, eclectic hike!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Went here a couple of weeks ago with the husband. We got as far as the ruined mill when we came across where the trail was now closed. Would have liked to see the rest. There is an absolutely huuuuge redwood along the trail here. It's so large it has another tree growing inside the hollowed out base of the tree. The trail was in good condition, but I was a bit clumsy and rolled my ankle. Fortunately, it didn't keep me from finishing the hike.
The road out here feels very off the beaten path. It's paved, but only large enough for one car at a time. Fortunately we didn't meet any other cars coming in or going out. I was also glad we had an SUV, because some of the ruts in the pavement were deep.
There is no bathroom available at the trailhead. We stopped at another open space area nearby to use the facilities there.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Half downhill, half uphill what do ya know!

Very scenic through some really massive redwoods! Less than 15 min in you come across the largest tree on the trail and it's mind blowing. The loop is easily completed in 2 hours.

Unclear if this is a dog friendly trail or not... We got mixed info and brought a dog anyways, didn't seem to be an issue.

So quiet and serene, hard to believe the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley is less than an hour away.

FYI - The last road you turn on to make it to the trailhead is very narrow and looks like a beaten up golf-cart path. Plenty of parking at the trailhead.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

This is a wonderful hike through gorgeous redwoods and beautiful scenery. We only saw 3 people on the entire hike. We took a slightly larger loop by going from Tarwater Trail, continuing on Canyon Trail, then heading south on Bear Ridge Trail, then back up Tarwater trail.

Beware of the creek! This trail is aptly named. We unfortunately allowed our dog to go into the water and we will now be cleaning tar out of our car for ions to come.

None of the elevation gain/loss is steep as the trails meander up the slope in a gentle incline. The trails are well maintained and easily spotted.

24 days ago

2 months ago

2 months ago

recorded Tarwater big loop

10 months ago

10 months ago

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saturday, May 09, 2015

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