Is Big Basin Open
Most of Big Basin is still closed indefinitely because of hazardous tree removal, and falling trees are a major concern. Hundreds of people are working here to develop a safe entrance and a memory of what happened for future generations. The difference after the devastating fire is profound, with blackened trunks everywhere. Some places are a lot thinner now. It is a big task to get the State Park fully reopened.
Open to the public is Waddel Beach and parking, the Rancho del Oso Nature and History Centre, and the Marsh Trail. Later in the summer, limited park access for day use by an online reservation system is planned together with the reopening of Highway 236.
The Best Big Basin Camping
Everyone wants to visit California to see Hollywood, but they tend to forget the amazing wildlife that the state has to offer. Located in Santa Cruz County is the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The oldest state park in California, established in 1902, is a historical landmark most notably famous for the coastal forests home to the ancient coast redwoods.
With over 130 km of trails and luscious forest, visitors can easily lose themselves in the magic of Big Basin park. For those who love nature, this park allows you with plenty to explore, just make sure youre well-prepared.
When Is The Best Time
This was my hiking guide for Big Basin, but 97% of the State Park got destroyed. The well-developed headquarters, the campgrounds, the picnic areas, shops, the outdoor theatre, all infrastructure from water to electricity and internet, nothing is left. More than 18.000 acres were burnt to the ground in August 2020. The good news was the old redwoods were more resilient than expected and had already started to regrow with fresh green needles at black branches and trunks.
Luckily, no one died – all visitors, campers, and park staff more than 1000 people got evacuated in three hours because the fire rolled quickly into the park during the busiest season.
There are plans to reestablish this wonderful State Park with the public’s input. Prioritized is a return to fully open the park. Some campgrounds will be relocated, a shuttle introduced and trails newly developed.
Big Basin Redwoods was a popular State Park close to San Francisco, and it will be again an awesome place for camping under the astonishing trees. This article and pictures are dedicated to the oldest State Park in California, 65 miles south of San Francisco.
However, the good news is scientists believe 9 out of 10 majestic redwoods survived, but none of us will see this park in its glory again it simply takes much longer than a lifetime.
Recommended Reading: National Parks In Washington State Camping
How Do I Get To Big Basin State Park
About 1.5 hours south of San Francisco, Big Basin is one of the most popular places to see the redwoods near San Francisco.
To get there from the city, youll take US-101 South or I-280 South until you get to the San Jose area.
Once you get to San Jose, youll take CA-85 South to CA-17 / CA-9 to CA-236.
Since there are multiple ways to get to Big Basin Redwoods from San Francisco, its good to just use Google Maps to figure out which route has the least amount of traffic.
Note that the road into Big Basin is winding and only one lane, so its good to give yourself extra time to get to the park in case you get stuck behind slow vehicles.
If youre coming from Santa Cruz, its only a 45-minute drive north.
Youll take CA-9 North to CA-236 South / Big Basin Way.
And from downtown San Jose, Big Basin Redwoods is only about an hours drive.
Since there are two main ways to get to Big Basin Redwoods from San Jose, its good to just use Google Maps to figure out which way has less traffic.
Best Time To Visit Big Basin State Park
Big Basin State Park can be visited at any time of the year.
Its open year-round and due to Californias relatively temperate climate, its a good park to visit no matter what season it is.
With that said, the park does have a wet season in the winter when trails are more slippery and muddy.
And the wet season at Big Basin isnt anything to mess with it gets 3x the amount of rainfall as the rest of the Bay Area.
The wet season lasts from November to February, with January usually being the rainiest month at Big Basin.
The winter also sometimes brings storms that can cause fallen trees to block the trails.
If youre visiting in the winter, its good to check trails conditions and closures ahead of time and bring a solid pair of waterproof hikes shoes.
Summer in Big Basin Redwoods is busy, so be prepared for more people and fewer parking spaces, especially on weekends.
There also tends to be more fog in the mornings in the summer.
If I had to choose a time of year to visit Big Basin, Id go for spring or fall for good weather and fewer crowds.
Recommended Reading: Dispersed Camping Near Arches National Park
Visiting Big Basin Redwoods
Imagine a time when the whole peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose shall become one great city then picture, at its very doorstep, this magnificent domain of redwood forests and running streams, the breathing place of millions of cramped and crowded denizens of the city. Carrie Stevens Walter, Sempervirens Club, 1901
Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is Californias oldest state park. In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractionsliterallyare its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, many babbling brooks, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. A new chapter in Big Basin’s story began on August 18, 2020, when the CZU Lightning Complex Fire swept through 97% of the park’s property. The fire destroyed all historic structures and radically changed the landscape. The park now looks very different from how generations of visitors experienced it, but it is steadily recovering. Most of the old-growth redwood trees survived, new plant life is vigorously growing, and many animals have returned to the area. The Reimagining Big Basin project is managing the multi-year process of rebuilding park facilities and infrastructure.
Big Basins coastal unit, Rancho del Oso, is accessible off Highway 1 in Davenport, about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz.
What Is There To Do In West Waddell Creek State Wilderness
The West Waddell Creek area is full of scenic trails reaching the coastline and going right into the wild forest. Famous trails such as the Redwood trail go through this area where youre able to see ancient redwood trees at their greatest.
Not only does this area have a number of trails but also a thick variety of wildlife and natural waterfalls such as Berry Creek Falls and Golden Falls. This area, though not popular like others parts in Big Basin State Park, is full of nature that is really a must-see.
However, the only way to this area is by foot, so if youre with small children, its recommended to stay either close to the coastline or near the Big Basin headquarters.
Don’t Miss: Sam Houston State Park Rv Camping
Big Basin Update State Parks Shares Concept For A Connected Collaborative Reimagined Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Vision for the Reimagined Park to be discussed at a community event on June 3, 2022
California State Parks this week announced the release of the Reimagining Big Basin Vision Summary, a collaborative vision created through months of public input to guide the reestablishment of Big Basin Redwoods State Park after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire.
When will Big Basin Reopen? According to Santa Cruz Sentinel, the parks 2022 summer partial reopening wont be revealed until June, and will not happen before the Fourth of July holiday.
Early access for biking and hiking will be limited to Big Basins 18 miles of backcountry fire road, the Old Growth Loop and part of the Dual Trail loop as crews continue to repair trails for public access.
Popular back-country access to trails such as the Skyline to the Sea and access to Berry Creek Falls are on the more distant horizon, officials said.
Initially, on-site parking for visitors will be limited with online reservations for a few dozen people a day, a process organized by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Officials plan to scale up to 70 daily slots by summers end, however.
Roadside parking will not be permitted along Highway 236, but visitors arriving by weekend bus, foot or bicycle will be allowed free access without a reservation, officials said.
Recovery Updates Virtual Experience And Faq
Big Basin was dramatically changed by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020. While it is not yet possible to witness these changes in person, you can learn more about the parks current conditions and ongoing recovery efforts through State Parks updates, recent videos, photographs, and news articles.
Read Also: Best Camping Mattress For Bad Back
What Is Big Basin State Park
Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is Californias oldest state park. In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractionsliterallyare its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. Big Basin Redwoods State Park preserves more than 18,000 acres.
The draft vision outlines a Reimagined Park that will be different from the Big Basin the public remembers, with facilities and services established outside of the old growth redwoods and areas with sensitive resources. Access will be improved for alternative modes of transportation, including a shuttle to reduce congestion and increase non-automotive access to the park. Connectivity and collaborative resource management will be prioritized as the park returns to full operation to enhance visitor experiences throughout the park and build resilient partnerships within the region.
View this post on Instagram
State Parks will pursue the following strategies to meet the guiding principles for the reestablished park:
Reestablishing full access to the reimagined park is expected to take several years. Planning will continue in phases. To get the latest updates and get on the mailing list, please visit ReimaginingBigBasin.org.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Typically, you have to drive to the northern reaches of California to see the most impressive groves of redwood trees, which isn’t very convenient if you’re on a quick trip. However, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is just an hour south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz mountains, making it one of the easiest places to visit from the Bay Area to see these mighty trees.
Unfortunately, wildfires decimated most parts of the park in August of 2020. Redwoods can withstand forest fires and many of the iconic trees are a bit charred but thankfully still standing. However, the fires destroyed the park headquarters, visitors center, campgrounds, and trails, and almost all parts of Big Basin Redwoods State Park were closed to the public until further notice.
Read Also: Camping Sites Near Atlanta Ga
History Of Big Basin State Park
As Californias oldest state park, theres a lot of history to be found at Big Basin.
Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is where youll find some of the best redwood hikes in the state, as well as some of the oldest California redwoods in the world.
Big Basin is also the park that inspired conservation efforts in California and the state park movement to protect more of Californias natural beauty.
It was the Sempervirens Club that was formed in 1900 by local community members that ultimately saved this area from the increasing demands of the logging boom in California.
And Big Basins history goes back much further than just when it was established as a state park.
Before the Spanish explored this area in the late 18th century, it was inhabited by Native Americans for at least 10,000 years .
Local tribes used the Big Basin forest for food and resources and maintained a healthy ecosystem for thousands of years before they were wiped out by colonialism.
Are There Bears In Big Basin Redwoods
With only a handful of black bear sightings in Big Basin Redwoods over 50 years, you probably wont come across many bears at Big Basin.
With that said, there are quite a few mountain lions which is partly why dogs arent allowed on the trails.
Its also rare to spot a mountain lion though since they tend to be more scared of you than you are of them.
Ive hiked in Big Basin and the Santa Cruz Mountains countless times and Ive never come across a mountain lion.
With that said, if you do come across a mountain lion, dont run away as you will just encourage it to chase you.
Instead, make yourself as big as possible and speak loudly to try and scare it away.
Get your FREE California Travel Planner including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
Looking for more Northern California travel inspiration? Check out these related posts below!
Read Also: Free Camping Near Brookings Oregon
Skyline To The Sea Trail
Miles: 3-30 | Elevation change: 500-1,710 ft
Trailhead: For the multi-day hike, start either at the Saratoga Gap parking lot or from the Castle Rock State Park parking lot . For a day hike, start at the large Redwood Trail Marker across the street from Park Headquarters in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Another popular Big Basin hike, the Skyline to the Sea Trail is also one of the most popular multi-day backpacking trails in California.
The full Skyline to the Sea Trail is a one-way 30-mile trail that spans further than the perimeter of just Big Basin Park.
If you want to do the full hike, youll go from Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains to Waddell Beach in three days.
For this hike, youll need to grab a Skyline to the Sea Trail permit, which you can get here.
Plan to book it at least a couple of months in advance.
If youre not interested in doing the lengthy multi-day hike, hiking the portion of the Skyline to the Sea Trail thats within Big Basin State Park is a popular day hike option as well.
There are few different Skyline to the Sea Trail options for a day hike as the trail intersects with quite a few other hikes in Big Basin.
One of the most scenic Big Basin redwood hikes that involves the Skyline to the Sea Trail is the Sunset-Skyline Short Loop.
This 2.9-mile hike takes about an hour to an hour and a half with a 500-foot elevation change.
This six-mile loops main features are Opal Creek, plenty of old-growth redwood trees, and Rogers Creek.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Tent Cabins Overview
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Campground has 183 single-family campsites set in a grove of towering coastal redwoods. There are four loops in the campground including Huckleberry , Wastahi , which are walk/hike to, Blooms Creek , and Sempervirens . Group camping is available in the Sequoia and Sky Meadow Group Camps. Tent Cabins are also available in the Huckleberry loop.
The campground is located in a heavily wooded area with the majority of the campsites shaded by redwood trees. Each campsite also has a table, food locker, fire ring and grill. Amenities include drinking water, flush toilets and hot showers .
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Area Recreation
The Park includes more than 18,000 acres from the ocean to an elevation of 2,000 feet. The biggest attraction is a rare stand of ancient coastal redwood trees that are among the tallest and oldest tress on Earth. Visitors will also enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, more than 80 miles of roads and trails, and a fascinating natural and cultural history.
Butano State Park and Portola Redwoods State Park are another options if you want to camp in the Redwoods.
Don’t Miss: Little Beaver State Park Camping
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Parking
If youre visiting in the summer , parking lots fill up quickly.
This is especially the case at the main parking lot near the Big Basin Visitor Center.
Plan to get to the park before noon to snag a spot and make sure you have $10 in cash for the day-use fee or a California Explorer Pass.
If you arrive at the park and theyre already at capacity, youll be turned away.
There isnt any street parking outside of the main parking lots because of how narrow the road is to get into the park.
The Original California State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park spans more than 22,500 acres of high chaparral slopes, waterfalls, canyons, and marshes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is home to the largest stand of old-growth redwoods south of San Francisco. In 1902 it became Californias first State Park.
At the turn of the century, in response to frantic redwood logging, a group of concerned citizens met at Slippery Rock, along the banks of Sempervirens Creek to form the Sempervirens Club. The Club raised money to advocate for the State of California to purchase the parks original 3,800 acres in 1900, and a movement was born.
In August and September 2020, the CZU Lightening Fire Complex burned more than 86,000 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is one of the many parks that has been affected. In July of 2022, Big Basin Redwoods State Park reopened to the public. Although the majority of Big Basin Redwoods State Park is currently closed due to damage caused by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires until further notice, a portion of the Rancho del Oso area is open and portions of Big Basin, including the Redwood Loop Trail, are now open for reservations to visit. You can read more about how we’re Reimagining Big Basin here.
Recommended Reading: Dispersed Camping Near Montrose Co