You can click each place to learn more!
A short walk from The CottageThere’s a humbling feeling when you’re in the presence of redwoods. A gentle peace envelopes you like a fog that drifts in. 499 acres provides an opportunity to view outstanding old-growth redwoods and has picnic facilities, a visitor center (with some Blomquist history!), a camp store, a creek swimming area, and campfire programs. The park is known for its family camping areas and the Tan Oak and Mt. Ellen Nature Trails. *Mt. Ellen is named after the niece of my great, great grandfather!
9701 Alpine Road, La HondaHeritage Grove is a magnificent old-growth redwood forest. As one wanders the network of trails under the towering giants, a sense of awe and tranquility permeates this unique enclave of forest that escaped the timber harvesting of earlier years. It’s also considered to have the largest redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Old growth redwood trees can live for two to three thousand years and in the right conditions will grow to over 300 feet in height! Experiencing these giants should be a must on anyone’s bucket list. Heritage Grove is just a few miles from The Cottage as well.
Pescadero Creek Park
9500 Pescadero Creek Road, Loma MarPescadero Creek Park is part of the vast 8,020-acre parkland that makes up much of Loma Mar. Hiking, camping, biking, and horseback riding are popular here. The Old Haul Road (pictured) is a 5.7-mile hike that follows the route of a narrow railroad line that hauled logs to the various mills that once flourished in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s also part of my ancestry as we had several mills in the area. Even today you can find rusty choker cables used to skid and lift logs onto flatcars. This road provides a great hiking, biking or equestrian experience from Memorial Park to Portola State Park. Pescadero Creek, which flows all year round, is a major steelhead spawning stream. The park is also a short walk from The Cottage. Pack a picnic and pick a spot!
Sam McDonald Park
13435 Pescadero Creek Road, La HondaSam McDonald is a unique and interesting 850-acre facility. The park actually represents a contrast between two separate natural environments. The northwesterly half, near 400 acres between Pescadero Road and Highway 84, is principally a lush growth redwood forest. The 450-acre portion, southeasterly, is primarily an open ridge, with grassy knolls and patchy brush areas. From this ridge area, vistas of the Butano and Skyline Ridges, and the Pacific Ocean can be seen. Plus, it’s just one mile from The Cottage.
Pescadero State Beach
Follow Pescadero Creek Road all the way to the ocean
The beach has a mile-long shoreline with sandy coves that are perfect for picnics, kite flying, sunbathing and experienced surfers often find uncrowded challenging waves. There is usually plenty of driftwood for sculptures or fort making, interesting tide pools and rock formations for exploration. Can’t beat views of a classic Central California ecosystem where creeks, ocean, and marsh connect. Grab some sandwiches and drinks in town and enjoy the view. You practically have the beach to yourself on most days! Parking $8 on the northern section but free on the southern section.
Pescadero Marsh & Natural Preserve
The marsh is across from Pescadero State BeachA popular spot for bird watchers and other naturalists with over 380 species of plant life, 50 kinds of mammals and 33 amphibians have been sighted. The Reserve is a refuge for blue heron, mallards, cinnamon teal, coots, kites, hawks, and egrets. Feeding and nesting place for more than 150 species of birds. Species in the marsh listed under the Endangered Species Act include the San Francisco garter snake, California red-legged frog, tidewater goby, steelhead trout, and Coho salmon. Twice a month (first Sunday of the month at 10am & third Sunday at 1pm) the marsh has docents lead nature walks. To reach the marsh, use the wooden staircase on the eastern side of the parking lot, which will take you to a pedestrian walkway along the Highway 1 bridge. Once you walk across the bridge, access the marsh by walking under the bridge from the beach.
Bean Hollow/Pebble Beach
About 2 miles south on Highway 1 from PescaderoThe one-mile walk between the north and south end of the beach offers an up-close look at Tafoni rocks (sandstone rocks that have been weathered in a honeycomb-like surface/texture), tide pools with rock crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins, a sprinkling of brightly colored sea anemones and starfish to name a few; colonies of harbor seals and shorebirds as well. The trail is one of the best places along the San Mateo coast to see a largely undisturbed landscape of native coastal plants. Part of the beach has deposits of varicolored, water-worn pebbles (pictured) several feet deep, including agate, chalcedony, jasper, moonstones, and sardonyx, giving the beach its name. This beach is one of a handful of state beaches that is free and allows dogs. The best tides start in the fall.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
About 8 miles south on Highway 1 from PescaderoThe 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse is the tallest working lighthouse on the west coast and has been guiding mariners since 1872. A reminder of the days when whalers and Gold Rush era clipper ships fought strong gales, stiff seas, jagged coastal rocks and unforgiving fog. The original first-order Fresnel lens is on display. The lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, weighs 2,000 pounds and consists of 1,008 glass prisms (learn about the campaign to restore the tower so the lens can be returned to the top). I remember taking a tour when I was in grade school and climbing all those stairs to the top of the tower. Wow, the view! The lens took up most of the space. Unfortunately, they don’t allow tours inside the tower anymore. It’s still fascinating to walk around. A visitor center in the fog signal building is open daily from 10 am and 4 pm. Half-hour guided history walks around the lighthouse grounds are available. It’s also a popular spot for whale watching.
Año Nuevo State Beach
About 11 miles south on Highway 1 from Pescadero
Seeing huge male elephant seals (weighing close to 2.5 tons!) battling it out for mating rights is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that thousands of people come to witness each year. (Breeding season is December 15 through March 31) The park also features a natural history exhibit, bookstore, and theater. The physical terrain of Año Nuevo is distinctive, with coastal terrace prairie, wetland marshes, dune fields and coastal scrub hosting a high diversity of plants and animals. A hike out along ocean bluffs brings visitors to a major bird migratory route and fantastic birding location. Located just offshore sits Año Nuevo Island and the remains of a 19th-century lighthouse and fog signal station. Otters and harbor seals are often sighted in the waters and magnificent Steller Sea Lions take up residence on the outlaying rocks. Año Nuevo State Park is breathtaking in every season as the elephant seals can be viewed year-round. Highly recommend a guided walk. Reservations are recommended. Don’t forget your binoculars! Parking $10/tickets $7
Pomponio State Beach
About 2 miles north on Highway 1 from PescaderoPomponio Beach makes a quiet setting for a picnic or an adventurous day on the sand. The parking lot is centrally located and has a nice wide sandy beach at the driftwood littered mouth of Pomponio Creek. Pomponio Creek creates a seasonal lagoon on the beach. If you want to explore the hidden reaches of this beach, just walk at lower tides north or south below the picturesque cliffs. Each route is a stunning beach walk ending at other state beaches (Pescadero SB to the south and San Gregorio SB to the north). Due to the seclusion, these areas can have clothing-optional beachgoers. Next to the parking lot are picnic tables, barbecues, and bathrooms. The San Mateo coastline hides some of Northern California’s most scenic beaches and this is one of them. Parking $8 (daily pass good for all beaches)
San Gregorio State Beach
La Honda Road & Highway 1
California Historical Landmark commemorates the passage of Spanish Explorer Captain Gaspar de Portolá through this area in October 1769 during his first attempt to reach Monterey Bay. On this trip, the expedition would discover San Francisco Bay. The beach’s broad expanse of sand catches the eyes of travelers along Highway 1. It has a large parking lot and a popular picnic area on the bluff above the beach. San Gregorio Creek flows down to the beach and pools before creating an exit route through the sand. At times this lagoon will fill most of the cove. Birds can be spotted at this location year-round. Logs and driftwood pile up in places around the lagoon and along the beach. Creative visitors take advantage of the driftwood to construct various sculptures. South of the creek, the beach stretches for over a mile below rugged cliffs to Pomponio State Beach. This is an excellent beach walk with high sandstone cliffs the entire way. If you walk north there are caves and fossils in the sandstone cliffs to investigate. Parking $8 (daily pass good for all beaches)
Town of Pescadero
From Loma Mar take Pescadero Creek Road all the way until you hit a stop light and turn right Pescadero was founded in 1856 – just 6 years after California became a state! The rich, fertile soil of the valley attracted many settlers and in the 1860’s Pescadero was a prosperous town that served as a major produce, lumber center (Loma Mar) and a summer resort (hotels now long gone) for San Franciscans. The main street is called Stage Road and was originally the main route along the coast which carried passengers and freight for the Wells Fargo Company. Some say if you listen closely, you can almost hear the distant rumblings of the stagecoach making its way toward town. The town’s church was built in 1867 in the classic revival style and is the oldest church building within the San Mateo-Santa Clara County region. Many of the old frame houses date from the 19th Century and reflect the town’s pioneer Yankee roots.
An idyllic 8-mile country back road that passes by some farms and homes, gorgeous views of green mountain valleys and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, not to mention a stretch lined on both sides with tall eucalyptus trees (Pictured). It starts on “Main Street” in downtown Pescadero and meanders to San Gregorio which is little more than a single intersection with a general store and post office on one side and an old gas/service station on the other. It then winds back up a hill with more stunning views and ending on Highway 1.