Last updated: 03/29/2021
Discover Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the California's oldest state park and which is full of giant sequoias, trails and many opportunities to get in touch with nature.
THE BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK
Founded in 1902, Big Basin Redwoos State Park is a state park located about 40 km north of the friendly seaside town of Holy Cross and about 120 km south of San Francisco. The park is famous for housing virtually the entire watershed of Waddell Creek, which was formed by an earthquake, raising its edge and leaving its center with a basin-shaped depression.
The Big Basin Redwoods houses the largest number of redwoods south of San Francisco that are located in the coastal area. These gigantic trees have between 1000 and 2500 years old and some measure over 90 meters in height and have a circumference of 15 meters!
With one estimated area of 73 km2, the park has a vast flora, including, in addition to sequoias, conifers, oaks, among other trees. The park also has a varied fauna, including deer, raccoons, bobcats, herons and woodpeckers. Big Basin Redwoods is a great spot for hikers as it has many more trails available. Many of them lead to several waterfalls that can be found in the park area.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY…
Archaeological evidence suggests that the first humans lived in the Big Basin region around 10,000 years ago before the Spaniards began exploring the area in 1769, when Gaspar de Portolá led an expedition. In the area lived the Cotoni and Quiroste tribes, who were eventually decimated. The park's founding in 1902 marked the beginning of the preservation and conservation movement in California. Currently, the emphasis is on preserving the entire ecology of the forest, with its geological features, wildlife and watersheds. See more details about the history and information about the park in the official pamphlet that can be accessed in this link.
HOW TO GET TO BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK
We recommend that you rent a car to visit Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Access by car can be done in two ways:
- From San Francisco: The park is located about 110 km south of San Francisco and can be accessed via Highways 9 and 236. From Highway 9 in the city of Boulder Creek, take Highway 236 and you will be at the park's headquarters driving another 15 km.
- Access from the coast: A part of the park can only be accessed via Highway 1, the highway that runs through the california coast. The entrance is about 40 km north of the city of Holy Cross. It is through this entrance that you have access to beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean from Waddell Beach and the Rancho del Oso Nature & History Center, in addition to several trails.
At the entrance to the park, after paying the entrance fee by car, we received a leaflet with information and park map, a paper that informed the entry payment and that we need to leave it on the windshield.
There was also another paper to let us know the places in the park that we were going to visit so that, in case we got lost and didn't get back to the car until sunset, the park rangers could look for us in those places, making the search easier. It also needs to be placed on the windshield.
WHAT TO DO AT BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK
Below you will find the official map of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. In it, you will find all the information about the main areas to visit in the park. Next, we talk about some of them in more detail.
>> MUSEUMS / VISITORS CENTERS
- BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK HEADQUARTERS & VISITOR CENTER: At this visitor center you can admire beautiful photographs of the park taken over the years, as well as learn more about the redwood forests and learn more about the animals that live in the park. Schedules: daily from 9 am to 5 pm
- RANCHO DEL OSO NATURE AND HISTORY CENTER: Occupying an American ranch-style home, the museum is currently being renovated to reopen again in 2020. With new interactive exhibits, the site aims to highlight the wonders of the Waddell Valley, bridging cultural and natural history. It is located in a very culturally rich area where Native Americans once resided. Schedules: Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 16:00
Big Basin Redwoods State Park has nearly 130 km of trails available! There are many options for all levels. They give you the opportunity to explore more of the park to see the historic redwoods, waterfalls and diverse examples of wildlife such as deer, raccoons, bobcats and a wide variety of birds.
It's always good to check out official site to confirm which ones are closed before starting the hike, check the trail on the map and, in case of doubt, talk to the park staff beforehand. There are a number of events walks that take place throughout the year that can be interesting too. Check out some of the top trails below and see the full list by visiting this link and this other link to see the hiking options in the Rancho del Oso region.
>>> REDWOOD LOOP TRAIL (Easy)
The Redwood Loop Trail is ideal for those who want an easy and not too long trail. It is less than 1 km long and can be completed between 45 minutes and 1 hour (see map here), according to the rhythm you want. The trail starts opposite the Visitor Center, practically opposite the park's Cafe and Grocery Store.
This trail gives the opportunity to see some of the largest trees in the park, such as the Father of the Forest, with about 1500 years, which is more than 20 meters in circumference and more than 76 meters in height; and the Mother of the Forest, with a circumference that exceeds 21 meters and a height of 89 meters (in the past, it was 100 meters high!).
Another highlight is the chimney tree, a tree different from the conventional one as it has a completely hollow core due to fires.
Practically in front of the Chimney Tree we found another very different tree, also completely hollow inside, which yielded very nice photos!
The Redwood Loop Trail is amazing and you can already give an idea of what to find in the park. We love to walk through it and we don't even notice the time passing. Even for those who are not used to hiking, there is no need to worry because it is not tiring at all. It is even accessible for people with limited mobility.
>>> SEQUOIA TRAIN (Easy)
With about 6.5 km in length, this trail forms a loop with the Skyline to the Sea Trail (via Slippery Rock Trail) or Shadowbrook Trail. It is estimated that it can be completed in about 3 hours. The trail leads to the waterfall viewing platform Sempervirens Falls. Tip: if you don't want to do the trail, you can drive along Sky Meadow Rd and stop near the waterfall. There is a sign indicating that cars can be parked on the side of the road for up to 15 minutes. To get to it, just go down a wooden staircase to see the waterfall.
>>> TRAIL TO BERRY CREEK FALLS (Very difficult)
This trail is suitable for the more experienced, because it lasts about 6 hours, covering 17 km. The elevation of the land reaches 655 meters. The highlights are the creek opal creek, many large trees like the Santa Clara Tree and Berry Creek Falls, composed of four waterfalls and which is one of the park's postcards. We didn't risk doing this trail, but whoever gets excited, tell us about the experience!
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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VISIT THE BIG BASIN
- Arrive early to get a parking space closest to the Visitor Center. We went in winter, low season, and had to park the car about a 12 minute walk from the Visitor Center and the start of the Redwood Loop Trail.
- Use closed and comfortable shoes to visit the park.
- Bring water to stay hydrated while hiking the trails.
- Always bring a coat because the temperature in the place is lower than in the surrounding areas, since the very tall trees prevent the sun's rays from reaching the ground in many places.
- There is no cell signal. Use a form of offline GPS (you can download maps from Google Maps to take them offline or use some other app – I recommend maps.me). The Visitors Center has free wifi.
- Help preserve the place by throwing garbage only in the appropriate baskets and not trying to feed wild animals.
- If possible, always take food with you to have a picnic on site. There are several wooden tables distributed throughout the park that can be used for this purpose.
WHERE TO EAT AND SHOP AT BIG BASIN REDWOODS
Big Basin Redwoods doesn't have many options for eating and shopping. If possible, always carry a snack in your backpack for when hunger strikes. Check out the establishments located on the premises of the park:
- BIG BASIN COFFEE: This Café serves sandwiches, starters, salads with ingredients supplied by local producers. On site you will also find a variety of snacks, ice cream, coffee and smoothies. Check the menu in this link. Schedules: during the summer months, it operates daily from 8 am to 8 pm | hours vary during spring and autumn months | closed during the winter
- BIG BASIN GROCERY STORE: The store sells camping supplies such as ice, wood, food, drinks, and gifts. Schedules: vary during spring and autumn | in winter, open only from Friday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm | in summer, it usually opens daily from 8 am to 8 pm
There is also a museum, called the Nature Museum, which is on the left side of the store, but it was closed when we visited Big Basin Redwoods.
WHERE TO STAY AT BIG BASIN REDWOODS
We didn't sleep in the area because since we live in Silicon Valley, we took a day trip to see the park. Either way, here are the top lodging options for anyone visiting Big Basin Redwoods State Park:
- CAMPING: The park offers several camping areas. Camping in the park costs US$ 35 per night + US$ 10 per night for additional vehicles. See details and map of the campsites by accessing this link. Reservations must be made through from this site.
- TRY CABINS: The park has 35 cabins located at Huckleberry Campground. For more information and reservations, access this site.
- LITTLE BASIN GROUP CAMPGROUND: Little Basin is a campground attached to the park that has 12 cabins and 38 more camping spaces that can accommodate RVs and up to 50 people. The site also has a kitchen, a shed and a recreation area. see more information in this link.
- OUTSIDE THE PARK: A more comfortable option, but a little further away, is to stay in hotels outside the park, which have better infrastructure. Check out some options by going to this link.
TOURS TO BIG BASIN REDWOODS
Big Basin Redwoods is not a popular tourist park, although it is the oldest in California. Looking for tours that transport visitors from San Francisco to the park, we found only one and it was expensive. What's interesting is that it combines a view of the Big Basin Redwoods with a tour of Silicon Valley.
- Address: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006, United States
- Schedules: daily from 6am to sunset | offices and museum – check it out here
- Entrance: US$ 10 per car (US$ 9 for 62+)
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Read more about parks in California:
- The amazing Yosemite Park in California
- California: Death Valley, the Valley of Death
- California: Sequoia National Park, the park of the giant sequoias
- Crystal Cave: Marble Cave at Sequoia Park in California
- California: Kings Canyon Park and the Deepest Canyon in the USA
- Muir Woods: Giant Sequoias Next to San Francisco
- Lassen Volcanic Park: The Volcano Park in California