Tarwater Trail

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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Tarwater Trail


  • Tarwater Trail is in Pescadero Creek County Park.- Tarwater Trail
  • Trailhead.- Tarwater Trail
  • Massive tree along the trail.- Tarwater Trail
  • Parts of the trail pass through second-growth redwoods.- Tarwater Trail
  • Remnants of the original shingle mill boiler.- Tarwater Trail
  • Local fungi.- Tarwater Trail
  • Banana slugs (Ariolimax californicus) are frequently seen in this area.- Tarwater Trail
  • Primal forest.- Tarwater Trail
  • This old cabin is well-preserved.- Tarwater Trail
  • In places the trail climbs above the trees for nice views.- Tarwater Trail
Overview + Weather
Redwood forest. Historic artifacts. Light usage.
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Pets allowed: 
Highest point: 
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
630.00 ft (192.02 m)
Year round: 
Parking Pass: 
Permit required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
4.80 mi (7.72 km)
Total elevation gain: 
630.00 ft (192.02 m)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

San Mateo County maintains a marvelous string of wilderness parks up the spine of the San Francisco Peninsula, and one of the most remote and least-visited is Pescadero Creek County Park. This wild and beautiful forested range of hills offers hikers a great chance to get away from crowds and experience great solitude just a few miles from the heavily-populated Bay Area cities.

One excellent moderate loop route is sometimes called the Tarwater Loop, but it includes portions of the Shingle Mill, Pomponio and Tarwater Trails. Starting at the Tarwater Trailhead, the Shingle Mill Trail heads down into the Tarwater Creek drainage. Passing through live oak and bay laurel mixed woodlands, the trail environment changes to coast redwood groves as it reaches the lower elevations in the creek canyons. After about 1.6 miles, the trail passes close to the remnants of an old shingle mill before reaching Pescadero Creek and the Pomponio Trail junction. Pomponio Trail is popular  with mountain bikers. Turning right on Pomponio Trail, the junction with Tarwater Trail is reached in only 0.3 miles. Tarwater Trail climbs back up through dense woodlands, passing an well-preserved old settlers cabin with some spectacular eucaluptus trees marking the location. As the trail climbs back up to the top of the ridges, there are nice views of the surrounding hills just before the loop completes at the trailhead.

While mountain bikes are not allowed on this loop, there is a parallel trail on the dirtsurfaced Camp Pomponio Road that connects to a large network of other bike trails in Pescadero Creek, Sam McDonald, and Memorial Parks.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(17 within a 30 mile radius)

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(123 within a 30 mile radius)

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Adventure Community

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3 Members
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