Tarwater Trail Loop is a 5 mile moderately 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.

Distance: 5.0 miles Elevation Gain: 767 feet Route Type: Loop

kid friendly

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

partially paved

river

views

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.

hiking
12 days ago

Beautiful trail. Easy to navigate.

horseback riding
over grown
20 days ago

Very pretty redwoods grove! I love seeing the new redwoods growing. Mostly shaded.

hiking
5 months ago

Hiked this after some good rain this week and it was quite muddy in a few places. Saw two other cars in the parking lot and a group of three guys there when we got back (that's it). The best part was the giant redwood on Shingle Mill Trail; its comparable to the nearby Methuselah Tree on Skyline Blvd. The old cabin/garage/shack was cool as well. I hoped to see more old remnants of the past but didn't really see much (we walked quite fast). We also didn't get to see the eponymous oil slick in Tarwater Creek as the creek was at the bottom of a pretty steep and overgrown ravine. It was all quite wet from the rain and we saw no trails down to the creek. If you want to see the creek, try continuing on Canyon Trail until it hits the creek to see if you can go down there (I think another user says to do this below; I only noticed this advice after I hiked it of course). Its a cool and easy hike which can be completed in under two hours if you are in shape and determined. If you want to extend it, consider crossing the bridge on Camp Pompino Road. There is an old abandoned jail a half mile down. I haven't checked this out but it might be cool. You could loop back to the bridge on Pompino Trail. Also note the road to the parking lot was one lane on a ridge and pretty beat up with lots of pot holes. My Ford Focus was fine but just be aware of what to expect. Finally, Shingle Mill Trail was closed on the Pompino Trail end, but not closed by the parking lot (though at the lot it does say closed to bikes). Not sure why this would be as the trail was fine except for some mud. There were no large puddles and it was by no means impassable.

hiking
6 months ago

Cool trail with a nice redwood grove

hiking
bugs
no shade
over grown
9 months ago

Few things. Overgrown in most places Bugs Bugs Last leg has no shade Hardly 1 or 2 hikers on the trail. Less popular Nothing stands out for this trail. Very average

hiking
10 months ago

This is an easy yet excellent 5 mile hike. The trails are well marked so navigating is a breeze. Most of the trail wanders through beautiful second growth redwoods and the random boiler is cool.

hiking
Mon Nov 26 2018

Easy light hike. Great redwoods and banana slugs!

hiking
Fri Jun 08 2018

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.

hiking
Sat Apr 21 2018

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.

hiking
Fri Sep 01 2017

Nice trail in and out of redwoods and oaks.

hiking
Sun Jul 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.

hiking
Sun Jul 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

hiking
Mon Jun 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.

hiking
Sun Jun 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

Sun 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.

Mon 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!

Sun Sep 25 2016

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

hiking
Mon Feb 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?"

Wed Oct 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!

hiking
Fri 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.

hiking
Thu Dec 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.

hiking
Tue Oct 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.

hiking
14 days ago

hiking
15 days ago

hiking
20 days ago

hiking
21 days ago

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