Heritage Grove Loop

4-star hike.
4½ mile loop • Easy difficulty.
Elevation 500 - 1,200 feet. Gain 800 feet.
Sam McDonald County Park, Northern California.
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Visit Sam McDonald County Park and expect to find a little of everything, and on the Heritage Grove Trail you'll find gigantic old growth redwood trees to sweeping open views over the neighboring Santa Cruz mountain ridge-tops.

Leave your car at the ample parking lot deep in the redwood forest and head for Towne Trail, a winding woodland trail which leads upward in a southwesterly direction, before arriving at the Jack Brook horse camp. Here the curious might want to pay close attention to the nearby park interpretation sign-board, which when we visited the park had become home to a small colony of bats who were doing their best to catch some zzz's despite the attention of curious hikers.

For the most part this loop trail's twists and turns fall under the shelter of a forest canopy, which makes it a great choice for a peninsula hike on a hot summer day, so long as you're comfortable with a three-quarter mile route along Towne Fire Trail across farmland ad grassland to the open ridge-top above the 800 foot deep Jones' Gulch. If you're curious, a little detour near the top of the hill will take you on to the Sierra Club's Hiker's Hut.

The return trip along Heritage Grove Trail quickly becomes level ground after an initial descent, and a signed spur-trail en route gives you the chance to visit the Heritage Grove, a collection of old growth redwood trees saved from logging by local concerned citizens. The park requires a day-use fee and is usually unmanned, which means you'll want to bring along a pen and a small fist-full of bills just in case.

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