Rolling hills, mountain panoramas, and towering redwoods said to be the largest in the Santa Cruz Mountains—Sam McDonald County Park just can’t seem to get any better … until you find out it’s also got one of the coolest A-frame cabins you can spend the night in! See the highlights of this 850-acre park on the 5-mile (round-trip) Heritage Grove and Hiker’s Hut Loop.
Start at the main parking lot and take Big Tree Trail, following signs for Heritage Grove Trail, and crossing Pescadero Creek Road. Big Tree Trail soon meets with Heritage Grove Trail, where Douglas firs team up with the redwoods. Continue on Heritage Grove, following signs for the Hiker’s Hut. You’ll arrive at Towne Trail, a meadow of panoramic views with layers of mountains unfolding all the way to the ocean and a junction to the Hiker’s Hut.
Owned by the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club, this rustic A-frame cabin is hemmed in by trees and can be rented by the public for $20 to $30 per person per night, depending on the time of week. It has a kitchen with a stove and microwave, and enough bed platforms to sleep larger groups—though you may prefer an intimate party of two. And yes, there are flush toilets. The large wooden deck makes a great hangout. Continuing the hike, make your way back uphill on Heritage Grove Trail. Continue on Towne Trail, following signs for Towne Fire Road, ducking back into the redwood groves for an encore before you’re back to Pescadero Creek Road.
From 101 or 280: Take Hwy. 84 west to La Honda. Turn left half a mile past village center in La Honda onto Pescadero Creek Rd. The park entrance is on Pescadero Creek Rd., about 3 miles from the turn-off. From Hwy. 1: Take Pescadero Creek Rd. east for about 11 miles to the park entrance. Day passes for parking are $6. No dogs.