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.

Great hike! Beautiful trails, changing terrain. Completed in 3.5 hours at moderate pace.

hiking
21 hours ago

If you want to spend an afternoon walking in the woods but nothing tiresome, this is your best choice. It is also kid-friendly.

MOSQUITO CITY! Be prepared! Arrived 8:45a on a Sunday. Plenty of parking, but lots of people milling around. Once I got on the trail, only encountered a few groups, mostly near the trailhead. Was glad I did the loop clockwise, so I was going downhill on Meteor trail, which was by far the prettiest part of the hike. It’s a narrow ravine full of ferns and a few Redwood groves. Kind of a fairyland, made more magical by the fact that I was all alone there. Except for the mosquitos. The rest of the hike was pleasant.

hiking
6 days ago

Did this loop as a day hike ;)

There’s currently a minor detour to Sunset that is very well signposted. Does not significantly change the walk. I set off around 16:30 on a day when it was 30C+ in the Bay and it was very cool. Finished up the whole loop in a little over 3h at a steady pace uphill and jogging on the downhill sections. Anti-clockwise is ideal for a later start in the day as you get the uphill out of the way early (in shade) and top out into some afternoon sun before gently descending down Johansen Road which is a wide road and also fairly well shaded with occasional breaks for sun. Where Johansen joins Creek Road there’s an absolutely stunning tree house very visible from the road. Shortly you descend to Berry Creek Falls at the lowest point on the trail which threads around some beautiful old growth redwoods by a stream for a few km before a fairly steady uphill back to the Visitor Center. Highly recommended with very little to say against it. A few more exposed sections would be nice but the terrain is already varied.

hiking
11 days ago

Great loop if you fancy a challenge! Anti-clockwise seemed the best option - the early section is exposed so you get to do it in the cool morning sun if you go early.

Three stars for me as I’m not sure that I would do it again, except to test my fitness or as training in future. The anti-clockwise section from the start to Slate Creek was perhaps most enjoyable due to the varied terrain. A few km after Page Mill Site the terrain and scenery tends to become quite monotonous (but still beautiful!) however the final section from Big Basin back to the start fully tracks the road which takes some of the fun out of it.

In July there was water at Slate Creek, Iverson Creek, Fall Creek & Boulder Creek. Starting with 2.5l I comfortably made it to Boulder Creek before refilling with 2l but should have refilled 2.5l.

hiking
11 days ago

I’ve done this hike twice now, once in every direction, in the dead of the summer when the temps are high. About 12.5mi and 2,000ft of elevation. I wouldn’t call it difficult per se, it’s just long. Just under 5.5hrs at a moderate pace with two short stops. What I really enjoy about this loop, is that the majority of it is in the shade with beautiful forest views. Four stars because there really aren’t any breathtaking views from the top, though they are definitely nice - of more forest, as far as the eye can see.

Would gladly go again.

hiking
12 days ago

Nice trail but crowded and too much car noise on the weekend

Great hike through some beautiful old growth redwood forest with some mixed chaparral as well. A little longer than advertised—I measured it on my GPS at 5.5 mi.

backpacking
20 days ago

I spent two days, and extended the loop further south. With a backcountry permit, parking is required at Jay camp, just a short walk to headquarters. I was able to enjoy the redwood loop both at the beginning and the end of the trip. Day one went up skyline, then hollow tree trail, circled around to Sunset Camp. Great location to set up the tent then enjoy all the remaining daylight at the falls along west berry creek. Then day two takes you by the falls again, soaking in the morning sunlight of the trails. I continued to Berry Creek falls and stopped for breakfast. Had the place to myself on Tuesday morning. Plan to spend all the time you can along this trail, every step is time worthwhile. I then continued south on skyline, took McCrary Ridge up, then Howard King to bring me back. McCrary is a 1,700 ft climb in 3 miles, and exposed for a good portion, be prepared. Ocean views along most of the trail. In all, I extended the total to about 20 miles with about 4,000 ft. Great alternative to the full Skyline to Sea if you are limited on time or don’t want to coordinate a ride.

hiking
21 days ago

I live out in the valley so I am not from the Bay Area.. the reason why I say this is because I want to warn everyone about the crazy Bay Area Drivers that will nearly run you off the road as you try to make your way up and down this mountain. It's a shame because the trail itself was nice but others are correct when they say it can be crowded. I would definitely recommend Yosemite or Kings Canyon over this. I will not be revisiting Big Basin simply because I don't want to deal with people tail gating and honking at me while I drive this windy, curvy steep road. Please use caution and take your time!

Amazing hike. One of my all time favorites.

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

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

1 month ago

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

on Sequoia Trail

1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
2 months 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!

2 months ago

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!

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