Phleger Estate/Huddart County Park,
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/County of San Mateo,
San Mateo County
In brief:
4.6 mile out and back through redwoods at a preserve extremely well-used by equestrians.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.6 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 400 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 760 feet. The park's highest point is about 2000 feet.

Exposure:
Mostly shaded.

Trail traffic:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Season:
Nice any time.

Getting there:
• From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 84 (Woodside Road). Drive west about 1.5 miles, then turn right onto Kings Mountain Road. Drive about 2 miles on this narrow and winding road (watch out for deer, cyclists, and motorcyclists), then turn right into Huddart County Park. Once past the entrance kiosk, park in the lot on the left.
• You may also enter the park from Skyline Boulevard. Park at MROSD's Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve (the PC03 gate, not the main Purisima parking lot), cross Skyline Boulevard to enter Huddart, and then walk north into Phleger.
• A third access is via Crystal Springs Trail east of Phleger. This saves you the $6 entrance fee, but the walk to Crystal Springs Trail is not as pleasant as the wooded trails of Huddart. (If you're not familiar with the area, refer to a map.) Turn west off Cañada Road onto Runnymede, then park at the curve in the road, where Runnymede changes to Raymundo. Walk on the side of the road about .75 mile to the end of Raymundo, and take Crystal Springs Trail into Huddart (you come out on Richard's Road Trail), then turn right and hike a little over 0.5 mile to the Phleger entrance on the right side of the trail.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/126

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3726'24.71"N
Longitude
12217'30.81"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and picnic supplies available at Woodside, about 2.5 miles south. The only camping in the park is youth group camps.

Trailhead details:
$6 entrance fee (self-registration if entry kiosk is unstaffed). Plenty of parking. Maps available at the entry kiosk, or at the self-registration station. Restrooms near picnic areas; refer to map. Pay phone at the Chickadee Trailhead; on the right just past the entry kiosk. There is no direct public transportation to the park.

Rules:
No bikes or dogs. Trails are open to horses and hikers only.

The Official Story:
GGNRA's Phleger page.
CSMP's Huddart page.
Huddart park office 650-851-1210

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from NPS
CSMP's Huddart map
• Nice page with great map from Nature Conservancy
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Phleger Estate hike.
• The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Central Peninsula is a great map of the park (order this map from Amazon.com).
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map (order this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map, preserve descriptions, and suggested hikes (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 58 photos from the featured hike.





Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

People talk about Phleger Estate in glowing, reverent terms. TrailheadI feel somewhat chagrined to admit I don't share their enthusiasm. Quiet, second growth redwoods are not uncommon in the bay area, or in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Why make such a fuss about the northernmost redwoods on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains? Yes, the trails are quiet (open to equestrians and hikers only), but I think that's because GGNRA (and local land owners) have made it so difficult to figure out how you even get into Phleger from the most commonly visited east side of the park. Miramontes Trails, as it winds along West Union Creek, is lovely, but tall chain link fences (topped with barbed wire) marking private property, and traffic noises drifting from Interstate 280 are not lovely. I can think of numerous other parks and preserves, in the south bay alone, that offer more natural and less controlled romps through redwoods (Purisima, El Corte de Madera, Portola, Memorial, Wunderlich....). Still, as fellow bay area hiker Bill says, Phleger has the best trail signs Crystal Springs Trailout there; a metal profile of a Native American on horseback, with the trail name hanging on a wooden plank beneath. It's worth (at least once anyway) the trip just to see them.
     Four paths comprise the trail network at this shark tooth-shaped (as GGNRA describes it) park. Miramontes enters Phleger from Huddart, follows along West Union Creek, then climbs to meet Mt. Redondo Trail and Raymundo Trail. These can be combined to create a close to 7 mile loop. Or, start at Huddart, take Miramontes to Mt. Redondo, then climb to Skyline Boulevard on Lonely Trail, enter Huddart on Skyline Trail, and descend back to the trailhead on Crystal Springs Trail. This is a nice long, yet pretty easy about 8.5 mile loop, almost entirely shaded.
     For the featured hike, start at parking lot just past Huddart's Miramontes Trailentry kiosk. Cross the street to the information signboard, and begin hiking on the trail marked "Trail head: to Phleger Estate." The path, open to hikers and equestrians only, sweeps past some manzanita and tanoak, then ducks beneath some redwoods, and emerges near the picnic areas. At about .05 mile, Bay Tree Trail sets out to the right at a signed junction. Continue straight. At 0.15 mile, the path ends at a signed junction with Crystal Springs Trail. Bear left, following the signs toward Phleger Estate. Hazelnut, tanoak, and redwood are the dominant plants along the sides of the trail. At 0.3 mile, Dean Trail begins to the left at a signed junction. Remain straight on Crystal Springs Trail. This section of Crystal Springs Trail is heavily used, and the park has tried, with fences, to preserve the switchbacks which wind downhill. Still, many shortcuts have erodedMiramontes Trailthe hillsides. At 0.45 mile, Crystal Springs Trail drops down to the shore of McGarvey Gulch Creek and a junction. Continue straight, following the sign to Phleger Estate. The path proceeds along the creek, then meets another junction at 0.5 mile. Turn left onto Richard's Road Trail, a wide fire road. Walk uphill and look to the right for the path into Phleger Estate, at 0.6 mile. Turn right into Phleger Estate.
      Miramontes Trail, which is closed to cyclists and dogs, descends through the trees, then levels out as it picks up West Union Creek. The path is narrow, and prone to erosion. If you're visiting on a weekend, prepare to use your equestrian etiquette; greet riders, yield to horses, and step off the path (as best you can). A small flat off to the right offers the first, wonderful trail sign, as well as a little "thank you" memorial to politicians and other groups who made Phleger Estate possible. The small, sheltered canyonPhleger Estate sign  supports lush vegetation even in the summer. Look for sword ferns, hazelnut, tanoak, and wild rose. Sandy soil and winter storms take their toll on the redwoods, dropping a few each year into the creek, where they resemble piles of pickup sticks. Deer are common year round. All too soon, the idyllic quiet stroll along the creek is over, as the trail takes a sharp turn left away from private property (and an ugly fence), and begins an easy climb. Poison oak marks a transition to a mixed woodland, with pockets of redwoods, but long stretches of madrone, oaks, and manzanita, California coffeeberry, toyon, and douglas fir. Traffic noise from Interstate 280 becomes audible, but the thick tree cover obstructs any views. At about 2 miles, Miramontes Trail ends at a signed junction with Raymundo Trail and Mt. Redondo Trail. This is the turnaround point for this hike (although you can extend your hike by linking the Mt. Redondo and Raymundo Trails). Retrace your steps back to the previously encountered junction with Richard's Road Trail.Crystal Springs Trail
      Descend back down to McGarvey Gulch Creek and hike past the previously encountered junction with the path to Crystal Springs Trail, continuing on Richard's Road Trail. The fire road drops steadily, as the trail surface becomes hard and compacted, almost like pavement. At about 4 miles, Crystal Springs Trail heads east out of the park, on the way to Edgewood Preserve (it's about 3 miles). Walk a few more steps on Richard's Road Trail, then turn right onto Crystal Springs Trail. The path, open to hikers and equestrians only, switchbacks uphill through redwoods, madrones, and tanoak. After one last redwood patch, the trail turns uphill and passes through some chaparral, including madrone, chamise, and manzanita. At about 4.4 miles, Crystal Springs Trail ends at a previously encountered junction. Turn left and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: about 4.6 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, September 5, 2000