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Continuing our state park series in this blog, we're visiting a personal favorite today. We visited Big Basin Redwood State Park in 2011, with our kids and Grandpa and Grandma. In a nutshell - a gorgeous place for a family hike (or two), but be prepared for a challenging drive along a narrow road that winds between the huge trees.
And in more detail -
Where Is Big Basin Redwoods State Park?
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is in Santa Cruz County just south of San Francisco. Formally, Big Basin Redwoods is in the town of Boulder Creek.
How To Get To Big Basin Redwoods State Park?
Folks who are traveling from SoCal cities like Los Angeles should take I-5 N to CA-152 W and finally US-101 N to get to Big Basin Redwoods. Those traveling from San Francisco, however, could drive on US-101 S and get off at CA-85 S.
If you’re using a GPS, then here is the official address for Big Basin Redwoods:
21600 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, CA 95006
How Far Is Big Basin Redwoods From Santa Cruz?
You only have to travel about 20 miles south of Big Basin Redwoods to get to Santa Cruz, which translates to a 40-minute drive.
Be sure to read through our list of the “10 Top Things To Do In Santa Cruz” to help better plan your visit.
How Far Is Big Basin Redwoods From San Francisco?
San Francisco is about 80 miles north of Big Basin Redwoods State Park or about a 1.5-hour drive.
What Is There To Do In Big Basin Redwoods State Park?
Whether you plan a day trip or a multi-day trek, Big Basin Redwoods has plenty of ways to get in touch with California’s world-famous redwood trees. Let’s run through a few of the best things to do on your tour of the Golden State’s oldest state park.
By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about California’s redwoods, be sure to read our previous post entitled “Where To See Redwoods In CA.”
See The Redwoods
You can’t visit Big Basin Redwoods without seeing loads of soaring redwood trees. Even if you’re not all that interested in Californian redwoods, you can’t avoid these towering trees on your visit.
The most popular spot to take in the redwood trees is on the aptly named Redwood Nature Trail near the park’s headquarters. This flat, looped trail is about 0.5-miles long and takes you past some of the park’s most famous trees, including the 329-foot tall “Mother of the Forest.”
Be sure to look through this pamphlet to find more redwood trails in the Big Basin Redwoods.
If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping underneath mighty redwood trees, then you’re in luck. Big Basin Redwoods has many campgrounds that offer standard & group camping facilities, tent cabins, and equestrian camping opportunities.
Of these parks, Huckleberry Campground is the only area that is open year-round. For all other campgrounds, you must check Big Basin Redwoods’ official operating hours online. You can find a full map of Big Basin Redwoods’ campsites on this official page.
Typically, you will have to pay $35 per night and $10 extra for any additional vehicles. For more detailed information on making reservations, be sure to review the information on this webpage.
Visit Waddell Beach & Rancho del Oso
Along Big Basin’s coastal area, you’ll find Waddell Beach, which has become quite a hotspot in the windsurfing and kite-boarding communities. Waddell Beach is also home to two spectacular nature areas perfect for bird-watchers: Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve and Rancho del Oso.
By the way, Rancho del Oso has a fascinating History Center that’s usually open between noon and 4 PM on weekends.
Hiking In Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Big Basin Redwoods has well over 80 miles of hiking trails for guests to explore. From multi-day backpacking treks to short relaxing trails, you can find the ideal hike intensity and duration when exploring this park.
We strongly encourage you to look through this list of Big Basin hiking trails put together by the State of California. Below, we’ll review just a few of the more popular trails in Big Basin Redwoods.
Rated “easy” on Big Basin Redwoods’ website, the Sequoia Trail starts just south of the park’s headquarters and measures about four miles round-trip. This looped trail will take you by a few popular nature sites, including the Sempervirens Falls as well as the historic Founders Monument. Typically, it takes guests about three hours to complete this low-stress trail.
Slippery Rock Loop
The roughly 5.5-mile long Slippery Rock Loop is another relatively easy trail that starts just south of the park’s headquarters. A few of the highlights you’ll see on this looped trail include Sempervirens Falls and the old Maddock Cabin. Hikers who want a moderately easy half-day hike should keep this trail in mind.
Anyone interested in multi-day hikes at Big Basin should take a look at the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. This 25-mile hike takes tourists from the trailhead near Castle Rock State Park’s Saratoga Gap to Waddell Beach. Although this hike is somewhat tricky, it rewards travelers with some of the best views of the park’s wilderness.
Backpackers usually break this hike into a three-day trek and arrange transportation beforehand.
When’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Big Basin Redwoods?
Like everywhere else in California’s Bay Area, it’s best to visit Big Basin Redwoods in the autumn or spring. Both of these seasons don’t experience the high summertime tourist traffic or the wintertime precipitation.
Interestingly, folks who visit Big Basin during the summer are often put off by the Bay Area’s infamous fog. To learn more about this fascinating weather phenomenon, be sure to scroll through our post entitled “What’s The Best Time To Visit California?”
What Time Does Big Basin Redwoods State Park Open?
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is open between 6 AM till sunset every day of the week. Usually, you could visit the park headquarters from 8 AM – 6 PM on weekdays and between 8 AM – 7 PM on weekends.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Big Basin Redwoods?
There aren’t any fees to visit Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but you do have to pay $10 to drive a standard vehicle into the park.
Additional Questions On Big Basin Redwoods
Do you still have questions about visiting Big Basin Redwoods? If so, please check out these FAQs.
Can You Drive Through Big Basin Redwoods State Park?
Yes, you can drive through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but it’s not recommended. The reason driving is discouraged—especially for larger vehicles—is because California State Route 236 is extremely narrow. Always check with Big Basin’s HQ for any weather-related restrictions on SR 236.
Are There Bears In Big Basin Redwoods?
Bears are scarce in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. There have only been three black bear sightings in the Bay Area within roughly 50 years. Chances are slightly higher that you will encounter a mountain lion when touring the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Can You Bring Dogs Into Big Basin Redwoods?
The only areas you could bring dogs in Big Basin Redwoods include designated camping zones, picnic tables, and paved roads (including North Escape). In all of these approved areas, your dog must be on a leash.
Here are the areas you cannot bring your furry friends:
- Rancho del Oso
- Waddell State Beach
- Fire roads
- Non-paved trails
Where To Stay When Visiting Big Basin Redwoods State Park
As you’d expect, most of the hotels in Santa Cruz County are clustered around the touristy Santa Cruz Boardwalk. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t find high-quality lodging closer to Big Basin.
Whether you want to stay close to Big Basin Redwoods or a little further out, here are two highly-rated hotels to consider.
Brookdale Lodge is only about ten miles from Big Basin Redwoods, making it one of the closest hotels to the state park. This hotel’s rustic ambiance and location in the Santa Cruz Mountains make it a perfect retreat for those who want to be close to nature.
Carousel Beach Inn
Just steps from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Carousel Beach Inn is a family-friendly hotel that offers all guests free WiFi and continental breakfast. You could easily take a day trip from Carousel Beach Inn to Big Basin Redwoods if you follow CA-9 N (about a 45-minute drive).
We hope you find this guide helpful and inspirational. At the time of writing this post, Californians can still explore state parks - just please be sure to keep 6 feet between you and other people. And if more restrictions are applied, just stay safe and bookmark this guide for better days (those will come! Promise!)