Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a beautiful park located in Central California that is home to some of the tallest redwood trees in the world.
At the Big Basin State Park visitors can enjoy over 80 miles of easily accessible hiking trails with impressive redwood groves, incredible camping spots, waterfalls, and wildlife preservation programs, all just a short drive from Santa Cruz, San Jose, and other nearby cities.
But beyond incredible hiking trails, there is also a lot of history to discover in this region. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest State Park in California and it was created at the turn of the 20th century to protect the coastal redwood trees from being logged during the Gold Rush times.
At the Big Basin Visitors Center, you can learn more about the efforts of the first female ranger who fell in love with these redwoods and dedicated her life to protecting them. Or about William Waddell, an important lumber businessman who in 1875 was attacked and fought, but unfortunately lost, a fight to a grizzly bear in these woods (like something from a scene in The Revenant).
Here are 5 of the top hikes and other tips for visiting the scenic Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California:
- Redwoods Loop
- Sequoia Trail
- Berry Creek Falls
- Creeping Forest To Dool Trail
- Skyline-to-the-Sea to Waddell Beach
Layout Of The Park
The Big Basin Redwoods State Park has a lot of hiking trails ranging anywhere from short half-mile-long hikes to some trails that take almost 3 days to complete.
Most of the shorter day hikes start at the Park Headquarters where the Visitor’s Center is located. If you’re looking to do some day hiking in this park, this is where you’ll want to get started.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters was built during the park’s creation so here you can see the original infrastructure and buildings from 1902. At the Big Basin Headquarters visitors can find a variety of beautiful campsites in the midst of giant redwood groves and lots of hiking trails that weave through the park’s forest in all directions.
Upon arriving at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters you’ll want to check in at the Visitor’s Center to obtain a day parking pass for $10 and a map highlighting some of the most popular trails. The Visitor Center also has a ranger station with trail maps, trail descriptions, and a few information boards covering this park’s history.
Next to the Visitor’s Center, you can also find bathrooms and a little store in case you want to get any snacks or drinks before heading out on the trails.
Before you head into the Big Basin Redwoods State Park I highly recommend downloading an offline hiking app like MAPS.ME. There is no reception at this park and a lot of the trails often intersect with others so it’s easy to get lost or sidetracked in the wrong direction while hiking. There are plenty of well-marked signs on the trails but I always like to have an offline map with me in case I take the wrong turn or get lost.
Best Day Hikes At Big Basin
Although the Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the first State Park established in California and carries a lot of historical significance, it is very little known throughout California and the trails here rarely get super busy.
The busiest season for the Big Basin State Park is in the summertime when people from the nearby cities come here for a quick weekend escape into nature.
For those planning a visit to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, here are some of our favorite day hikes ranging from short quick trails to longer hikes that require a bit more planning and preparation.
- Distance: .5 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Change: 0
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time Needed: 30 min – 1 hour
- Starting Point: Redwood Loop Trailhead
The Redwoods Loop is by far the shortest but the most popular trail to do at the Big Basin State Park. This hike is only a half-mile long and has no elevation gain so it’s suitable for just about everyone.
The Redwood Loop is very scenic and it passes along some of the tallest and oldest trees in the park. The most notable redwood trees on this trail are called The Mother and The Father.
The Mother was once the tallest tree at the Big Basin State Park until the top broke off in a storm. The Father tree is over 1500 years old and is a popular spot for photographers to take pictures showcasing the scale and size of these giant redwood trees.
My favorite tree along this trail was the Chimney Tree which is hollow in the middle and has a heart-shaped base. Along this trek, you’ll also pass opal-colored creeks, oak trees, meadows, and other unique tree formations.
The Redwoods Loop trail starts near the Big Basin State Park Headquarters, just across the parking lot slightly to the left.
There are a total of 10 highlights that visitors can enjoy on this trail. Before you start the hike make sure to grab a free pamphlet by the starting point that describes more about each of the stops along the trail.
- Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Change: 600 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time Needed: 2-3 hours
- Starting Point: Sequoia Trailhead
The Sequoia Trail is another very popular trek to do at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The Sequoia Trail is around 4 miles long if you choose to do the entire loop with the Sempervirens Waterfall and Slippery Rock as the main highlights along this hike.
The starting point for the Sequoia Trail is located behind the Big Basin Headquarters day parking lot and passes a few scenic campsites like Jay Camp and Wastahi Campground.
This entire loop leads through a dense redwood forest so if you want to see giant redwood groves, this is the one trail that you should have on top of your list.
The main attraction of the Sequoia Trail is the 17 feet tall Sempervirens waterfall about 1.8 miles into the trail. The Sempervirens waterfall is located across Sky Meadow Road slightly to the right from the trail so make sure to keep an eye out for the turnoff signs.
The Sempervirens waterfall has an opal blue color tone resulting from minerals found in this region. You can best see this waterfall from a rustic wooden platform built for its visitors.
After the Sempervirens waterfall, you can choose to turn around and walk back the same way you came or continue along on the Sequoia Loop to Slippery Rock.
Slippery Rock is a steep rock surface that is bare of any trees. To continue on the Sequoia trail you will need to climb up this rock surface which in rainy seasons can be very slippery earning its name the ‘Slippery Rock’.
Next to the Slippery Rock, there are some information plaques showing how the California Ohlone tribes used rock surfaces like this to process acorns into flour for eating.
After climbing up this rock formation the Sequoia Trail connects with the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail and leads back to the park headquarters.
Berry Creek Falls
- Distance: 11 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Change: 2200 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Needed: 5-6 hours
- Starting Point: Berry Creek Falls Trailhead
Berry Creek Falls is a beautiful but quite lengthy day hike to do at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. If you plan to hike this trail, note that it’s not very difficult but it is very long.
Regardless of the length, this hike is pretty popular because it leads to Berry Creek Falls, a stunning 65 feet tall cascading waterfall.
You can hike to the Berry Creek waterfall in a loop or as a there-and-back trail.
The first option is to hike it in a loop that starts off at the Big Basin State Park Headquarters on the Sunset Trail. The Sunset Trail loops around to Berry Creek Falls and connects to the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail on the way back to the park headquarters.
The other option is to follow the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail to Berry Creek falls there and back. This route is a bit shorter but you’ll see the same things there and back which is why the recommended route is the loop version.
This trail is very scenic and it passes through a mossy redwood forest with many ferns and lush trees. You’ll also see a few scenic wooden bridges, lots of giant redwood trees, opal creeks, and of course the beautiful Berry Creek waterfall.
It’s best to see this waterfall in spring when it gets extra water from the winter snowmelt. We hiked this trail in the fall during the dry season and the waterfall was still quite scenic but not as big and lush as you would see it in spring or early summer.
Creeping Forest To Dool Trail
- Distance: 1.7 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Change: 500
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time Needed: 2 hours
- Starting Point: Creeping Forest Trailhead
I’ll start off by saying that the Creeping Forest trail wasn’t my personal favorite at the Big Basin State Park. Other day hikes like the Redwood Loop and Sequoia Trail just offer a lot more “wow” factors and highlights along those trails. But the Creeping Forest trek is still notable because it’s short, it’s easy and you still get to see a lot of scenic redwood trees.
This hike starts at the Creeping Forest Trailhead about a 15-minute walk north from the Big Basin Headquarters. The Creeping Forest Trail passes along overgrown redwoods, oak woodlands, and a few hollow trees that looked really unique and almost “witchy”.
Creeping Forest is not a very busy trail and in fact, I was the only person hiking on this trail for the entire time.
The Creeping Forest trail doesn’t get cleared as much as the other trails so it’s quite overgrown but in some ways this makes it look and feel a bit spooky. As I was hiking on the Creeping Forest Trail, I could hear animal noises and branches falling in the distance righteously earning it the name “Creeping Forest”.
About 1.2 miles into the hike the Creeping Forest trail will end and connect with the Dool Trail which will lead back to the park headquarters. I had to reference MAPS.ME app a few times during my hike as some of the markings were not super clear and part of the Dool trail was closed so I had to take a few unplanned detours.
Skyline-to-the-Sea to Waddell Beach
- Distance: 13 miles
- Elevation Change: 1000 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Needed: 5-6 hours
- Starting Point: Skyline-to-the-Sea trail at Big Basin Headquarters
If you’re looking for a hike that’s a bit longer and passes through a more diverse landscape, the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail that leads from Big Basin Headquarters to Waddell Beach is a great option as an extended day hike.
The Skyline-to-the-Sea trail itself is almost 30 miles long and we hiked this entire trail over a course of a couple of days. If you don’t want to hike the full 30 miles, you can break up portions of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail as day hikes.
The section of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail that starts at the Big Basin State Park Headquarters and ends at Waddell Beach is around 13 miles long and takes about 5-6 hours to hike at a moderate pace.
Once a year this section of the trail is also used as the route for the Skyline-to-the-Sea half marathon. The majority of this trail goes downhill and is quite easy so it’s possible to run this section in about 3 hours.
This trail starts by the Big Basin State Park Headquarters and passes through a mossy redwood forest full of towering trees, opal creeks, and rustic wooden bridges. This trail also passes Berry Creek waterfall, one of the biggest and most popular waterfalls in this park.
As the hike nears Waddell Beach, hikers can start seeing peaks of beautiful panoramic views from the trail. From there the hike descends and ends at the beach.
Note that this trail is not a loop and it goes for 13 miles one way. When we hiked this trail we parked one car at the starting point in Big Basin Headquarters and one car at Waddell Beach so we had a car waiting for us at the endpoint.
If you plan to get picked up from Waddell Beach by a friend or family member when you finish this hike, note that there is no reception to make a call so make your arrangements ahead of time.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for visiting the Big Basin Redwoods State Park:
- There is no reception at the Big Basin State Park so before you head out there I highly recommend downloading an offline hiking map like MAPS.ME in case you get lost on the trails.
- If you’re thinking about bringing your dog to this park, note that dogs are not allowed on any of the trails at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. At Big Basin Park dogs are only allowed in the campsites, picnic areas, and on paved roads (similar to a National Park) and they must be leashed at all times. The coastal redwood trees and wildlife at Big Basin are highly protected so if you are looking for a park to bring your dog on the trails, you might want to check out a different area.
- To protect wildlife and the different birds that reside at Big Basin Redwoods State Park Park, drones are not allowed.
- This park is a “Crumb-free” park. If you happen to drop any food or crumbs during your meals, please make sure to clean them up. Crumbs attract Steller’s Jay birds that eat the eggs of other endangered birds like the Marbled Murrelet. Please help protect these birds by cleaning up all food crumbs after yourself.
- It is not recommended to drink water from creeks in this park (even if it’s filtered) so make sure to bring along plenty of water on your hikes. There is a small market by the Visitors Center where you can purchase water and snacks during its opening hours.
Looking for other awesome things and hikes to do in California? Make sure to check out our other California travel posts below:
- 10 Outstanding Day Hikes In Sequoia National Park
- 20 Amazing Places To Stay Near Yosemite National Park
- 15 Incredible Things To See & Do On a Big Sur Road Trip
- Staying At Kirk Creek Campground In Big Sur, California
- 10 Best Day Hikes In Yosemite That Should Be On Your List
- Best Places To Stay In Big Sur For An Incredible Coastal Experience
Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, and durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra-fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set.
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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