Here’s a natural resource that’s hard to find and remains untapped in more ways than one: Tarwater Loop Trail, tucked in Pescadero Creek County Park
, sits atop a deposit of natural gas, but nature provides the real riches here. Magnificent redwood trees, lush green carpets of ferns and pure solitude are the reward for a bit of navigational work. Start the 5-mile roundtrip hike gently ambling downhill through a mixed forest of impressive second-growth redwoods, plus one very conspicuous old-growth specimen easily identified by its massive girth. Step carefully as the area is packed with banana slugs and the occasional ooze of the namesake petroleum bubbling up through the trail. Listen for the odd call—somewhere between a tweet and a screech—of the marbled murrelet, an endangered sea bird that maintains pied-à-terre nests in the forest. The trail empties onto Pomponio Trail, which you’ll follow a few hundred yards to pick up the final uphill portion of the Tarwater Trail (If you reach the visitor center for the county jail/work camp, you’ve gone too far—and you may have to do some explaining about the pinot noir in your backpack.) Follow burbling Tarwater Creek and enjoy another mile of grand redwoods before finishing with a series of grassy meadows that offer splendid vistas of the coastal hills. The 700-foot moderate elevation gain provides just enough of a workout that à la mode won’t even be a question when ordering a post-hike slice of legendary olallieberry pie at Duarte’s Tavern
in downtown Pescadero. That’s having your pie and eating it, too!
The trailhead is off Pomponio Rd., on the way to nothing else. From I-280 or Hwy. 101, take Hwy. 84 halfway through La Honda, turn onto Pescadero Rd. and look for Alpine Rd. after about a mile, just after Heritage Grove. Follow Alpine Rd. for 4 twisty miles until you reach poorly marked Pomponio Rd. (follow the sign for the jail and county park.) Pomponio Rd. dead-ends at the parking lot for the trail. From Hwy. 1, take the other end of Pescadero Rd. to Alpine Rd. Here’s a map of the park. Make a 5-mile counterclockwise loop almost exclusively on the Tarwater Trail Loop. Briefly make a left on the Pomponio Trail at the halfway point to pick up the Tarwater Trail Loop again, which takes you back to the trailhead. No dogs.