Mill Creek Redwood Preserve

palo colorado road
There’s a road off Highway 1 halfway between Carmel and Big Sur called Palo Colorado. The lower section is a redwood grove with old cabins and the occasional odd structure nestled among the trees. Like most mountain roads around here, it’s one lane, so when someone’s coming you have to pull off to the side. Drivers fall into two categories: speeding locals who want you to get out of their way and gawking interlopers who need to get out of your way. Eventually the road begins its climb. Instead of trees and cabins next to you, you have trees and a steep drop into the canyon. Mill Creek Redwood Preserve is 6.8 miles up the road–this is the view from the “parking lot,” which is really just a wide spot next to the road that can fit maybe six cars in a line if people don’t park like jerks.
mill creek
You sign up online for a permit (link below) and wait for them to send you the okay, which you print out and put on your dash. The limit is eight permits a day, so there’s never a crowd–something that’s getting harder and harder to find lately. We were the first in–you have to sign a clipboard when you arrive/depart–and only saw four people in the three hours we were there.
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The trail in the 1,500-acre park was built by hand over a 10-year period by a dude from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District with help from AmeriCorp volunteers and prison crews. From the park’s website, “The craftsmanship is reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of trail building during the Great Depression.”
redwoods
Trees.
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Glorious trees. Redwoods, oak and madrone.
the birds
And a cacophony of bird sounds.

 

rocky trail
The trail is 5.5 miles round trip. The elevation gain is less than 250 feet, so this is a fairly easy trek. You cross a creek 8 or 9 times by bridge (and the creek wasn’t even a crick when we did the trail last weekend, so the bridges were mostly unnecessary). Still glad I had my walking stick because there were a few rocky spots and I’m a klutz.
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You know you’re getting close to the end of the trail once you emerge from the trees.
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Your reward is comfortable seating to take in the view.
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And it’s a helluva view at 2,000 feet. Even when the ocean is socked in by fog, as it was on this day.
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Yes, under that foggy cloud (cloudy fog?) lies the Pacific.
lizard
I accidentally dropped a wet wipe on this lizard. Other wildlife included butterflies and moths and the previously mentioned birds. We also saw a ringtail cat (a type of raccoon),  but it had shuffled off this mortal coil leaving behind its lovely tail and desiccated corpse. We kept an eye out for mountain lions, since we’ve seen one near this park before. No dice, but we did see a bunch of hipsters (a PBR, if you will) just up the road at Bottcher’s Gap Campground. We’d hoped to enjoy the canyon view for a few minutes, and I needed to make a pit stop–there are no facilities at Mill Creek. But the lot was full and there were too many jorts and oversized glasses, so we rolled back down the road. It took 20 minutes to drive the 6.8 narrow and windy miles to Highway 1, where we left blue skies behind us and headed off into the fog.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve
Bottcher’s Gap Campground

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