[Editor's Note: Watch for this column each on Patch by local hiking enthusiast Tom Davids. Below is this week's suggested hike to the Grand Huddart Loop in Huddart County Park.]
By Tom Davids
The Grand Huddart Loop, Huddart County Park
Directions: West on Woodside Road through the town of Woodside to Kings Mountain Road. Turn right on Kings Mountain Road, and continue about three miles to Huddart Park on your right.
Grade: Moderate, well-graded trail, with a 1,200-foot elevation gain
Trail Map: www.co.sanmateo.ca.us and search for Huddart County Park.
Distance: About eight miles round trip.
Time: Four hours.
Special Conditions: Water and restroom at trailhead only. Watch for poison oak at trailside. Trails are open to hikers and equestrians this time of year. No dogs allowed. Vehicle entry fee. Huddart County Park is part of the San Mateo County Park System.
Anyone raised on the Peninsula probably has good childhood memories of Huddart Park. For several years, I had the pleasure of leading groups of Girl Scouts on the short hike up the Baytree Trail.
The history of Huddart Park tells us that the park was opened in 1948 and that the county fire warden, Bert Werder, took the lead in developing facilities for use by youth groups. Werder designed the first system of hiking and riding trails and inspired Boy Scout Troops to become the first park campers. In 1952, 600 Boy Scouts gathered at Huddart. The first family picnic area was dedicated to Werder in 1954. (1)
There are 20 miles of hiking trails in the park. This week’s feature is the “Grand Loop”—about six miles stretching from the bottom at West Union Creek to the top at Skyline Boulevard and back again.
The trailhead is at the foot of the large picnic meadow area. After passing through the entry station (expect a day use fee per car), turn left at the first intersection, then bear right, and drive to the base of the meadow. Park near the restrooms, and find the trailhead (also marked for the Phlegler Estate).
From the trailhead, turn left on the Zwierlein Trail, and hike gradually downhill through second-growth redwoods. Pass by the Dean Trail junction (your return hike will be on the Dean Trail), and continue down to the junction at McGarvey Gulch Creek. Stay on the Crystal Springs Trail, cross over a rustic wooden bridge, and begin your continuous three-mile-plus climb to Skyline Boulevard.
As your hike continues, be sure to stay on the marked Crystal Springs Trail. You will pass by the Chapparral Trail, which leads to Richards Road, the Canyon Trail, which connects to the Campground Road, a short spur trail to the Toyon Group Camp area (note that only group camping is accommodated at Huddart), and the Dean Trail leading to McGarvey Flat.
As you hike, take time to observe the different plant communities. At the lower elevations, along the streams and in the gullies, the majestic coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) provide a cool, well-shaded environment. As you gain altitude, the redwoods give way to Douglas fir on the drier slopes and upper canyons. The area around the intersection with Dean Trail is sunny and hot, with plant growth to match. Oak, madrone, and bay trees share space with the low-growing manzanita, chamise, and sticky monkey flowers, forming a thick, almost impenetrable mass of brush.
The Crystal Springs Trail begins to level out, passes through a wet-weather horse gate, and meets the Summit Springs Trail. A bench nearby works well if this happens to be your lunch stop.
Turn left, and climb up the broad Summit Springs Fire Road. As you walk, check out the large redwood stumps and the “fairy rings” of second-growth redwood circling the stumps. Alongside Skyline Boulevard, you will pass a couple of junctions. Stay on the Skyline Trail, and head to the Chinquapin Trail (about 0.2 mile).
The pleasant Chinquapin Trail runs downhill for 1.8 mile, dropping rather steeply to the first of three switchbacks, before it continues parallel to, but above McGarvey Gulch Creek, until intersecting with Dean Trail. You will pass within earshot of Kings Mountain Road and the drop 120 feet to the Dean Trail junction.
At the junction, four trails come from various directions. Stay on the Dean Trail, and in the next half-hour you will again walk close to Kings Mountain Road on your downhill trek past the Miwok, Madrone, and Werder picnic areas. Soon you will reach a “T” junction, as Dean Trail ends. Turn right on Zwierlein Trail; in a quarter mile you will be back at the parking area.
By the Way…
This area was heavily logged during the late 1800’s by San Francisco lumberman and Woodside resident James M. Huddart.
The park as we know it was actually a gift from Mr. Huddart. When he died on March 31, 1935, he left a will that transferred the remainder of his property to the City and county of San Francisco. He further stipulated that if San Francisco didn’t want it, the land would be given to the state of California for a park. Well, San Francisco rejected it and title went to the state, which after a couple of years decided that it wasn’t interested in maintaining the property. So the state donated the land to San Mateo County, which came close to refusing the gift because of a question over water rights. When all was said and done, San Mateo County accepted the property and Huddart County Park opened in 1948.
(Reference: “San Mateo County Parks” by Svanevik and Burgett. Published by an Mateo County Parks and Recreation Foundation, 2001)