hiking

forest

no dogs

nature trips

walking

views

birding

trail running

wildlife

kid friendly

river

camping

waterfall

wild flowers

Superlatives define Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. California’s oldest state park - covering more than 18,000 acres from sea level to more than 2,000 feet elevation - launched the state park movement in California. Big Basin’s biggest attraction – literally – is a rare stand of awe-inspiring, giant ancient coast redwood groves that are home to the tallest and oldest trees on Earth. Some measure close to 300 feet tall and 50 feet in circumference. Scientists estimate that these trees may range from 1,000 to 2,000 years old. Spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, old-growth redwood forest, more than 80 miles of paved roads and popular trails, and a fascinating natural and cultural history have beckoned millions of visitors to Big Basin since 1902. Each season offers a different park experience. The intense greens of mosses contrast with the subtle colors of lichens and mushrooms during wet winters. Beautiful waterfalls, banana slugs, and wildflowers abound in the cool, foggy spring. Find a shady getaway from inland heat in summertime. Fall offers pleasant weather without storms, pests or extreme heat. The park is about 65 miles south of San Francisco. From Santa Cruz travel approx 25 miles northwest via Highways 9 and 236 to reach Park Headquarters. Park Headquarters is 9 miles north of the town of Boulder Creek on State Hwy 236. All entrances into Big Basin are windy roads. The Rancho Del Oso coastal unit of Big Basin is accessible on State Route 1, about 20 miles north of the city of Santa Cruz. The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park. Dogs are only allowed on the paved trails.

Fantastic hike. I did this in about 3 hours with some running involved. Great trees, water, well established trail.

hiking
5 days ago

Nice hike. Went from East to West so uphill was more intense, but the path is nice and the view from the top is brilliant. A camera doesn't do the redwoods along the way justice.

Great little hike with my kiddos this afternoon. Made it to the falls and back in about 2.5 hours. It can be done faster, we just stop a lot and explore and take photos along the way.

I had to crush it so I didn’t have time to really enjoy it, but a great hike!!

Beautiful hike, changing scenery throughout. Make sure to bring lots of water and snacks.

Hiked the full trail with friends on Mother’s Day weekend. Well exceeded expectations. Despite the number of people out and about, much of the trail did not seem crowded except at the falls and at the beginning of the trail. The Falls were an excellent respite and the right intervals for a little rest stop. So many other trails to do next time.

on Shadowbrook Trail

25 days ago

Short and accessible. Uncrowded compared to the others, beautiful groves and creeks.

on Sequoia Trail

25 days ago

Super crowded, right next to the road.

There are a few trail closures right now so the route is a little different, but the ranger at the headquarters gave us a map and indicated the route to take to see all the falls. The altered route is just over 11 miles.

It was a very nice hike and especially pleasant for a real hot day since the vast majority of the trail is shaded by the trees. Really nice views of a few different waterfalls, wildlife (we saw a lizard, snake, and banana slugs)! Parts of the trail can be pretty busy (but that could have been due to the holiday), but if you do the whole loop most of the time you have the trail to yourself. Not particularly difficult as far as elevation climbs go which made the 11 miles feel much shorter. I would recommend if you're looking for something for an entire day but not something that is too strenuous.

hiking
26 days ago

Good trail to do with kids. We got to the falls, took Shadowtrail back down right into our camp, so maybe 4 miles total. Very do-able if you’ve got little ones.

Nice easy trail - as evidenced by many families there on the weekends. Takes about an hour and change to make it up to the waterfall from the HQ. The waterfall isn’t that great but a nice marker to hike up to and take a light breather. It’s a nice day hike to try out in the Santa Clara / Cruz area.

I’d rate it around 3.5 but will round up for family-friendliness and decent parking availability for all.

Very nice trail.
We made it clockwise and wasn't bad.
It is more like 7.5 miles not 6.1 but we didn't really care.
Combination of dense shade with sunny portions on top, sequoia, just bushes, something for everyone.
No ocean view as it was lots of fog over it.

13miles hike Howard king trail was more brutal coming back but a great hike

hiking
29 days ago

This a great hike with just enough elevation to give you a great workout. It isn’t super crowded so you’ll find yourself pretty alone most of the hike if you start off early enough. Pretty shady and simply beautiful

backpacking
1 month ago

I definitely recommend this loop! Only reason it’s not 5 stars is because about 25% of it is along roads, so you’re hearing cars instead of the wild.

I did this loop over 2 days, camped at Waterman. I started from Portola National Forrest, which by the time you get on the loop trail probably adds at least a mile. Totally I’d say was 32 miles and I perfect split 16 and 16 each day from where I started. Note: where this map says start/finish, you can’t park! So unless you’re being dropped off you can only park at one of the 3 national forest.

Portola was a good place to start, less busy and easy to park at than the others. I hoped on the trail and headed towards Slate creek. This is a nicely little couple mile section to get the legs warm. After you pass the slate creek campground, you take on the steepest terrain this whole loops overs. It’s a good hour of continuous steep terrain, great to tackle your first day. After that is rolling hills and a since change of scenery from tree covered areas, to open grass pastures and hilltop views almost to the ocean. The last couple miles to Waterman you’re on the Skyline to Sea trail along the road. At one point you get into some rocky areas with some incredible views.

Waterman Camp: permits required, but didn’t run into any rangers along the way, and there was plenty of room at the site. Running water, which was the only place I refilled. There’s a stream by Slate creek, but not much else for water from Portola to Waterman. Only downside is you can hear the road from the campsite, and those windy roads attract lots of people racing their cars and bikes.

Day 2: I was pretty sore from the 16 miles on day one. This was by far my longest hike yet (prepping for Whitney). Again, another day of rolling hills and great change of scenery. You get into more of the redwoods in this section. I woke up to rain that morning and hiked the first two hours in a nice steady mist, but there was a majestic layer of fog throughout the forest. From Waterman back to Portola where my car was, I think I saw 2 people on the trail and both were within the first 30 minutes of leaving camp. This is what I came for! You’re still along roads, a lot of this section is along the road going into Big Basin, but it’s beautiful none the less.

I was pretty beat up towards the end, I probably should have just used my running shoes, but this was an awesome 2 day hike. The elevation gain throughout is pretty substantial and the miles will test you. I ran the SF marathon a couple years ago (sub 4 hours)... and I think this loop was tougher for me both mentally and physically! I did this loop for the workout and that’s what I got! What’s nice is all 3 campgrounds are spaced out almost exactly by 10 miles, so it’d be easy to split this up over 3 days as well.

Trail too close to the road. You spend a lot of time watching your footing due to all the roots, etc., so be sure to stop once in a while to look up at the fabulous trees! Saw several gray squirrels and a deer VERY close to the parking lot!

Nice trees. Bring along a map as the trail options are many. No cell coverage on the trail (which is a good thing!)

It was my first ever backcountry camping hike and boy did I pick a winner. Sat by the falls and made myself some coffee while listening to the rush of water and watching the trees. This is your classic redwood hike among the trees, it will not disappoint!

Also watch out for ticks!

hiking
1 month ago

The whole trail is not so long and takes around 2-3 hours for round trip. The view is good but the trail sign is quite few. And there is few people walking on this trail so make sure go back before sunset. The eagle rock lookout is very good.

Fun hike. I love hiking in the redwoods and seeing the waterfalls and full creek beds. Banana slugs and salamanders were in abundance. We checked in with the ranger before the hike, and she gave us a hi-lighted map showing detours due to trail closures. Current hike is smidgen over 11. Go early (we were in the trail by 8:45), have a nice lunch at the waterfalls and enjoy the beautiful California redwoods.

Go early by 8 or 9 to have the trail to yourself. We hiked all the way to the waterfall without seeing anyone and had the view on the lookout point to ourselves. Started to see a lot more hikers on our way back.

hiking
2 months ago

Started at HQ. easy walk to the Sempervirens Falls. From there we took the Sequoia Trail up the hill and across the 236 to skyline to sea. That was much prettier

The longest hike I have done till now and the most beautiful one too. Beautiful waterfalls. Gigantic redwoods. Silent nature.
Carry enough fluids and food. Sit near each waterfall, on the fallen redwoods and refuel yourself. Enjoyed this hike to the fullest. I will be going once again for this same hike soon.

Yes it runs next to a road. But as with most trails in a very busy Big Basin Park? If you want less people and/or cars? Early bird gets the worm :). I made this short little hike on a Monday morning at 8 am and I got to enjoy the falls and only saw one other person in the hour I was there. I was already back to my car at 11 am and planning my next trail as I noticed the crowds and car noise finally beginning to build

Probably the second hardest hike I have done. Not in terms of difficult and steepness, but rather in terms of mere length. Bring lots of water and start early. The view of the waterfalls (multiple water falls :)) is worth the hike! enjoy guys! :)

hiking
3 months ago

Large portion of the trail runs alongside the road which takes the serenity out of the hike whenever a car drives by. The second half after passing Shadowbrook trail was much better with road noise. Overall the hike was pleasant, and relaxing. Small detour to see the falls. I would rate this as an easy hike.

hiking
3 months ago

Great trail to spend time on :)

walking
3 months ago

Absolutely beautiful, but then again so is almost all of Big Basin. It's a nice walk and the trees are a sight in themselves. There isn't anything especially striking throughout the path so not worth investing as a main event in your trip. However, for those only looking for an easy 30-45 min walk among some friendly giants, this path is absolutely for you.

Good workout! gains elevation at reasonable pace. Trail is pretty shady. No shade at the top. We hiked in March so was not that hot when we reached the top. Views are amazing once you get to the top.
Signs along the trail are not so clear, we got the trail info from info desk before starting. I have read reviews that if we get lost, it adds up few miles to your hike.
Did not see lot of people while on trail, not so crowded. Some parts of the trail are narrow but just walk carefully, its totally doable. Couple of big rocks which come in your way and you have to climb and get to the other side to continue. Loved the trail and will come back!

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