Redwood canopy at Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve / photo by Larry Turino

Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve

Status Update

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Status Update

Short Description
The parking area at Bear Creek Redwoods is often full on weekends. There is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road and there is no way to safely wait for parking to open up. Please be prepared to make alternate plans.
Redwood canopy, Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve (Larry Turino)

Overview

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Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve icon

Located 3 miles south of Los Gatos, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve has six miles of hiking and equestrian trails that meander along cool perennial creeks and through 1,430 acres of a second-growth redwood forest, extensive areas of Douglas fir and oak woodland. Higher elevations offer expansive views of the Sierra Azul Range. Near the parking lot is a short easy-access, self-guided interpretive trail that circumnavigates Upper Lake. The preserve's beautiful and biologically rich ecosystem provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including mountain lions, bobcats, western pond turtles, a few species of bats, Santa Cruz black salamanders and California giant salamanders, belted kingfishers, northern red-shafted flickers, and many other birds - both year-round residents and migratory species. It is not uncommon to catch sight of a bald eagle overhead!

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Hiking: All Trails
Hiking: All Trails
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Bicycling: Not Permitted
Bicycling: Not Permitted
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Equestrian: Designated Trails
Equestrian: Designated Trails
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Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
Dogs on Leash: Not Permitted
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Easy Access: Designated Trails
Easy Access: Designated Trails
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Camping: No Camping
Camping: No Camping
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Restrooms: Available
Restrooms: Available
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Kid Friendly
Kid Friendly

Preserve Highlights & Features

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a girl hugging a redwood tree

Redwoods

Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was named, in part, for the lush redwood groves that cover the slopes. It is one of Santa Clara County’s best preserved, second-growth redwood forests - most of the trees you'll see are less than 150 years old. Between 1850 and 1900, the rapid growth of San Francisco and San Jose fueled a high demand for lumber, and most of the old-growth trees in the region were felled. A few old-growth redwoods remain, likely passed over by loggers because of their unusual shapes, and are accessible from the trails.

Stories from the Preserves

Nature

Here are some of the plants and animals that other visitors have observed at this preserve and recorded in iNaturalist. Protected species may be excluded and some species may not yet have been observed. Help improve iNaturalist by adding your observations to the Midpen Biodiversity Index project

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Know Before You Go

Preserve regulations help provide a safe, enjoyable visit while protecting sensitive areas and wildlife. 

Share the Trail 

  • Use designated trails to avoid damage to natural resources and prevent injury. 

  • Avoid blocking the trail. Step aside to allow others to pass .  

  • If you’re walking, always yield to equestrians. 

  • Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. Most preserves do not have trash cans. Littering is prohibited. 

  • Abuses of trail etiquette should be brought to the attention of a ranger or call the Midpen main office at 650-691-1200. 

Activities & Events

There are currently no events scheduled.

History

At one time, the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were covered with old-growth redwood forests with trees several hundred years old. Between 1850 and 1900, the rapid growth of San Francisco and San Jose fueled a high demand for lumber, and most of the old-growth trees in the region were felled. When the timber industry was replaced by a private estate, a number of orchards and vineyards were established throughout the property.  However, Timber harvest continued on some areas well into the mid 1900s.  In 1934, the majority of what is now Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve was sold to the Jesuits, who established a theological college, the first of its kind on the west coast.

The college closed in 1969, and the property was slated to be developed into a golf course and luxury estates. Instead of expansive homes and putting greens, local conservationists saw room to breathe, for plants, wildlife and people. With support from the Committee for Green Foothills, advocates sent letters, made phone calls and spoke at public meetings, voicing their concerns about environmental damage from the proposed development. Meanwhile, Midpen and POST worked together to buy the property so it could be protected in perpetuity. In 1999, thanks to state grants and generous private donations, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was created at last.

Learn more about Bear Creek Redwood’s fascinating history through our interactive online experience, including blast-from-the-past photos.