Following a very successful day trip to Mendocino in November of last year I promised my friends we’d do another one and last Thursday we did…. well a couple of us did anyway – calendars are useful 😉
Since we didn’t have a full day we chose a slightly closer trip as my friends, fairly new to the bay area, hadn’t experienced the incredible trails in the open spaces of the Midpeninsula . Specifically, El Corte de Madera Creek, aka “Skeggs” and Purisima Creek Redwoods.
One can certainly spend an entire day in Skeggs with very minimal repetition of any given trail. There are just miles and miles of great riding there. There’s nothing, in my opinion, however in Skeggs that out classes the Whittemore Gulch trail in Purisima. Unfortunately there is no where near the mileage in Purisima for a full day (without significant repetition, which may not be a bad thing though).
Generally, living in Marin you come to expect that if there is rain anywhere in the bay area it will be Marin, or at least Marin will get hit the hardest. Don’t fall into this trap – ALWAYS check the weather for your destination. Leaving Marin at 6:30am we had no expectation that when we arrived at the trailhead just after 8am that it would be raining!
We were not completely unprepared thankfully but you can imagine what the inside of my car would have looked like had we not packed at least a full change of clothes!
And not only was it raining but the temp range was 46-52 which made for very cold hands and toes. Definitely could have used a waterproof jacket so at best we were underprepared.
For the route we knew we wanted to hit Whittemore Gulch which you should know has a seasonal closure in the winter. Being winter conditions I had a fear that we’d stumble into a situation where the website was out of date and we’d have to turn around. Thankfully that did not happen! If you are planning to come to Purisima for Whittemore Gulch be sure to at least check here for the status.
So Whittemore Gulch and a full day of riding meant we had to include Skeggs. There are a couple of ways to connect these two preserves but both involve roads: either Skyline Blvd or Star Hill rd. I prefer Star Hill because it has WAY less traffic and Skyline can be sketchy. The other difference is the extra climb that the Star Hill route creates. I didn’t want to push things too much and knew we absolutely wanted to do Whittemore Gulch and we wanted to end on that note.
Ending on that note isn’t completely accurate, however, as one of the challenges with the open spaces on the Midpeninsula is that generally you start at the top, drop 1500 feet or so and then have to climb back out. My strong preference is to climb first. Truly ending on Whittemore Gulch is absolutely ideal and if you can afford the extra time I highly recommend starting/ending at the base of Purisima. You get there from Highway 1 just south of Half Moon Bay.
In addition to saving time we had post-ride ambitions of lunch at Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside so we opted to park where we were going to end the ride and start with a 2 mile climb up Skyline to Skeggs. Our Route is here on Strava. The actual ride took us 4 hrs to cover 28 miles and 6600ft of total climbing.
Whittemore Gulch did not disappoint. We ran into a few very friendly hikers along the way but could safely open it up as the bottom half of this stretch, in addition to having playful rollers, offers great visibility despite the forested surroundings.
Essentially we simply combined the two routes from mtbproject for each of the preserves, Purisima and Skeggs, with Purisima modified to simply down Whittemore Gulch and back up the Purisima Creek Trail which of all the climbs back up to Skyline Blvd it’s the most gradual.
We finished around 12:30 pm and after about 30 minutes of clean up we were changed, loaded and on our way to Alice’s – just a few minutes south on Skyline Blvd. What a great way to enjoy the post-ride buzz. They are known for their BBQ options and based on our experience and the comments from the server go with the Brisket sandwich if you have the chance!