Hiking Big Basin Redwoods State Park

First for a Reason
By Dave Brian Butvill
  |  Gorp.com
Big Basin Essentials

Where: Twenty-five miles north of Santa Cruz at 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA, 95006.

Getting There: To get to park headquarters from the north, take I-880 south from San Jose to Highway 17. Exit right on Mt. Hermon road, turn right on Graham Hill road, and again onto Highway 9. Follow it north and turn left onto Big Basin Way. From the south, catch Highway 9 north at Santa Cruz and turn left onto Big Basin Way. To enter the park along the Coast, take Highway 1 (from north or south) and enter the unlocked gate across from Waddell Beach.

Permits and Fees: Call (831) 338-8860 to reserve a trail camp ($5 reservation fee), (800) 444-PARK for campground sites, (800) 874-TENT for tent cabins. No fires. No dogs on trails. Bikes on roads only.

Maps: Call (831) 335-3174 to request a map for $1.50 (or purchase at headquarters).

For more information: Call headquarters at (831) 338-8860.


Just north of Santa Cruz on the California coast, 80 miles of trails and dirt roads snake through massive 1,500-year-old coast redwoods, along the edge of waterfalls, through dry and dense high chaparral, and even to a beach on the Pacific Ocean. It's all part of California's oldest state park, Big Basin, established in 1902 to protect more than 3,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest.

Spanning 18,000 acres from the Santa Cruz mountains to the ocean, Basin's many steep peaks and valleys create diverse microclimates that host a variety of wildlife; there are black-tailed deer and gray foxes, banana slugs and California newts in the luxuriantly moist forests and lizards basking on the dry ridges, even marbled murrelets or "fog larks," an endangered seabird about the size of a robin, that feed on the ocean but nest only in the high canopy of ancient coastal forests.

Though Basin is very popular and busy, most visitors hike a few popular routes, leaving the others relatively quiet. If you have time, don't miss the freshwater marsh and nature center.

A few words to the wise: Bring a water filter device or pack enough water for two days; creek water is not potable. Also, the raccoons are aggressive, so suspend your food.

Article © Dave Brian Butvill, 2000.

About the Author: Dave Brian Butvill is a California-based freelance writer who makes Big Basin his second home.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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