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Byrne-Milliron Forest… a Magical Mountain

by Whitney Wilde

byrne trail

Byrne-Milliron Forest is not for wimpy walkers. It’s a hike—and well worth the effort. The views of the Pajaro Valley and Monterey Bay are spectacular, but that is not what makes this place magical; it is the touch of whimsy everywhere.

Mischievous forest spirits decorate Byrne Forest—from the carved wood goddess/fairy queen on the winding one-lane entry road, to the bowl of fresh fruit that rewards you for reaching AJ’s Point of View. The trail map hints at sculptures to look for: Eagle in Tree, 3 Bears, and Eagle on Stump.

The spirit who makes Byrne Forest such a magical place is Jeff Helmer, land steward there over 25 years for the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Jeff and his co-worker, Berkley (a large, happy, white Labrador), stock the rest stops with oranges or lemons (grown on the property), as well as jugs of drinking water for humans and canines. Jeff has created the trails, and also “decorated” the forest with quirky items. He and Berkley have even been known to go fetch a lost hiker (Jeff’s phone number is conveniently on the map).

Byrne Forest is comprised of many ecosystems: redwoods, oaks, madrones, mixed evergreens, chaparral, meadows, and riparian zones. My pup, GiGi, picked up many scents of wildlife and it drove her nuts. This is their forest: cougars, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, deer, lizards and birds. A wake of buzzards was there to check my pulse at the rest stop.

Got leash?
Another reason to love this forest: your pooch can be off-leash if he responds reliably to your recall! This means he must be under voice or leash control at all times. There are plenty of critters willing to make a meal out of your furry friend, so complete control is important.

byrne trails sign

There are quite a few trail choices and you will need to have a map. Be sure to pack plenty of water for you and your pup! The parking lot is at about 1,000 feet above sea level.

Byrne Trail to 3 Bears
The easiest of the trails, but it is still uphill (to about 1,100 feet). Leaving the parking lot, go through the gate and to the right. At 3 Bears, there is the Leonard Bartle Trail off to the right. You will quickly come to a seasonal creek that your pup will enjoy splashing in. If tired, retrace your steps; otherwise continue upward, past Bath Tub, to Porcupine Hollow (Eagle on Stump) and return on Byrne Trail.

Byrne Trail to Eagle in Tree
Trail climbs slowly and steadily to an altitude of 1,600 feet. With frequent stops, it took me about 1.5 hours to reach Eagle in Tree. Leaving the parking lot, go straight up the dirt path (not through the gate) until you reach Byrne Trail. Look for signs that say “Vistas.” Go left on Byrne Trail, right onto Hardwood Trail, hard right onto Byrne Trail, and left on Ridge Top Road. Once you reach Eagle in Tree, you are above the clouds and the view is magnificent. There is a picnic table, benches, water, and a journal full of fascinating tales and sketches from fellow hikers. Return the way you came.

byrne dogs

Rattlesnake Trail to AJ’s Point of View to Eagle in Tree
Trail is much steeper and a bit shorter. Leaving the parking lot, go up the dirt path until you get to Byrne Trail where you will see Rattlesnake Trail (and Switchback Trail). When Rattlesnake meets Byrne, go left and you will quickly be at AJ’s Point of View. Enjoy the view, the water and treats. At about 1,300 feet altitude, you are about halfway to Eagle in Tree.

Milliron Trail
Trail is rugged and ends at the Great White Loop with its two side trails to the thousand-year-old Great White Redwood Tree that is 250 feet tall.

The forest is private property owned by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (funded only by private donations), which graciously allows the public to access and enjoy its trails and vistas. Please contact Jeff Helmer to let him know you are coming. (831) 724-5357 or jeff.helmer@landtrustsantacruz.org.

There are maps at the gate in the parking lot.

Once you exit Highway 1, the ten-mile trip will take approximately 20 minutes.
Take Highway 1 to Freedom Boulevard and head east on Freedom Blvd.
After five miles you will come to a stop sign. Turn LEFT onto Corralitos Road.
After 1.7 miles the road will fork just before the Corralitos Market, VEER RIGHT at the fork. Turn LEFT at the “T” in the road onto Browns Valley Road. After about three miles, you’ll see a sign on the right for "Roses of Yesterday.” Turn LEFT into the Roses of Yesterday driveway. Follow the signs for #809. Please drive slowly up this very narrow road!  Visitor’s parking lot on is the right. There is a “restroom” facility there. .

* Corralitos Market has sandwiches and cold drinks available for before your hike, after your hike, or to take as a picnic.



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