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Redwood giants 30 miles south of San Francisco.

As late as the 1970s, redwoods were still logged in San Mateo County, where the last one was felled in what is now Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. Despite the logging (in the 1860s, eight mills were turning out shingles here), the preserve still has old-growth trees-some just acquired last spring. They may not be as numerous as those dignifying the more famous Muir Woods, to the north, and Big Basin, to the south, but this preserve is also less crowded. Winter is a fine time to visit these trees-just 30 miles south of San Francisco. The preserve's 2,500 acres now boast 18 miles of signed trails, picnic tables, parking, and rest rooms. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District began buying parcels for the preserve in 1982; later, Save-theRedwoods League doubled the size, then added the old-growth lands. Trails into the trees: two for hikers, one that is wheelchair accessible To see the giants, you can take a nearly 10-mile loop hike (elevation change 1,600 feet) or a 5.7-mile one-way hike (change 1,000 feet) with a car shuttle return. Park at the preserve entry on Skyline Boulevard 41/2 miles south of State Highway 92. For the short hike, leave a car at a second lot 2 miles farther south.) From the main entrance, hike down Whittemore Gulch Trail as it switchbacks past views of ridges to the west. At a junction, go straight onto Harkins Fire Trail; the path keeps descending (past abundant poison oak), offering views of Half Moon Bay. After hiking 1.5 miles, take the Soda Gulch Trail. This 2.4-mile stretch (just rebuilt after a washout) dips past chaparral, then into Soda Gulch and some of the preserve's biggest trees-fragrant bay laurels, and towering redwoods. Joining Purisima Creek Trail, turn left for a gradual climb 1.8 miles to the secondary parking lot for the shorter shuttle-car hike; for the longer loop, turn right and descend 600 feet in 2.3 miles to a lovely creekside rest stop before looping back on Harkins Fire Trail for the 3.7-mile steady climb back to the main parking lot. The new 1/4-mile wheelchair-accessible Redwood Trail is a pleasant short walk. It leads from the second parking lot to picnic tables in a redwood grove. The preserve has no drinking water. During the rainy season, most trails are closed to mountain bikes and horses; to check, call (415) 949-5500.
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Date:Feb 1, 1991
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