The Berry Creek Falls hike

The Berry Creek Falls hike

Big Basin: Camping and Hiking Guide

Everything you need to know about Visiting Big Basin

Giant, beautiful redwood trees. Fresh, crisp mountain air. Moss, mushrooms, babbling creeks. Fertile, wet, dirt. Decomposing plants. You might already be used to these things, but in Big Basin, it's on a different scale. Nature really takes on a new meaning here.

Big Basin Redwoods is a California State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Big Basin is California's oldest State Park and a California Historical Landmark.

 
Berry Creek Falls, a must see

Berry Creek Falls, a must see

 

The name Big Basin gets thrown around a lot, especially if you're talking about the Santa Cruz Mountains. I heard about the park multiple times before I visited, and when I finally did, I regretted not visiting sooner.

Why visit Big Basin? Because it really is an amazing place! It's surprising how rural and off-the-grid you feel in this ancient redwood forest, considering how close it is to the technology Mecca that is Silicon Valley. And the beauty of the forest is just indescribable. 

Planning and Preparing to Visit Big Basin

Congrats on deciding to visit Big Basin! You're going to have a lot of fun. It's always good to be prepared, so let's go over a few things.

If you'd like to camp in Big Basin, there are a couple options. You're going to reserve a tent spot or tent cabin. Reservations must be made 2 days ahead of arrival and can be made up to 7 months in advance.

 
Silver Falls and Golden Cascade on the Berry Creek Falls Hike

Silver Falls and Golden Cascade on the Berry Creek Falls Hike

 

Tent spots are self explanatory. If you don't have a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and other camping essentials, check out best selling camping items on Amazon and GearWeAre.

Tent cabins are enclosed structures that require no set-up. Tent cabins include mattress pads, a table, a wood stove, and a lockable door. There's also room for an additional tent outside. Tent cabins obviously cost more but If you don't want to buy your own camping gear, tent cabins are useful. You can add the Total Camping Package, which includes 4 sleeping bags, a cook stove, pots and pans, cooking utensils, a lantern, a 60-quart cooler, one bundle of wood and one bag of ice. The link to reserve is below. Additional information on camping and lodging in Big Basin can be found here

If you're planning to trek through the backcountry, click here for information about backpacking campgrounds. The most popular backpacking trip at the park is the Skyline-to-the-sea Trail, a 30 mile, 3 day backpacking trip from the mountains to the ocean. More information can be found here.

 
Hollow tree trunk during our hiking in Big Basin

Hollow tree trunk during our hiking in Big Basin

 

Items you might want to consider bringing to make your Big Basin camping trip successful include: Your tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and other camping gear, food and cooking supplies, and hiking gear such as clothes according to the weather, a Camelbak, and a flashlight or headlamp. In Big Basin there is a general store with food, beverages, and essential camping supplies.

Big Basin is open year-around and each season has it's unique qualities. The best times to visit are spring and fall. During warm weather, the park turns into a nice cool oasis.

How to get to Big Basin

 
 
 

Big Basin is about 2 hours from San Francisco, 1 hour from San Jose, 45 minutes from Santa Cruz, and about 6 hours from Los Angeles. Mountain roads leading to Big Basin are windy and narrow. Please be careful and plan to leave in the daytime instead of nighttime.

What to do in Big Basin

 
Berry Creek Falls Trail

Berry Creek Falls Trail

 

The best things to do at Big Basin are hiking, biking, backpacking, horseback riding, picnicking, and geocaching.

Hiking is the most popular. Big Basin has more than 80 miles of trail! Click here for a trail map. Stop by the visitor center for a map and to inquire about which of the hikes fit your skill level.

If you have a full day and are ready for a challenge, do the Berry Creek Falls hike, an 11 mile roundtrip hike. This hike is a workout but along the way you’ll see big coast redwood trees, beautiful creeks, and four spectacular waterfalls. Make sure to leave early and bring lots of water and a flashlight in case you don't make it back before sunset.

  • Directions for Berry Creek Falls hike: Park at the headquarters, then find the trailhead for the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. Stay to the left and follow the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail until you reach Berry Creek Falls Trail. Turn right on Berry Creek Falls Trail until you reach Sunset Trail. Turn right on Sunset Trail until you're back at the headquarters. The Berry Creek Falls hike is a loop so you can also take the loop the opposite way by following my directions backwards. Along the hike you will walk along Kelly Creek, Berry Creek, and see the magnificent Berry Creek Falls and Silver Falls.

Here's a link to the Berry Creek Falls hike on Google Maps

Here's more hiking links

If you enjoy backpacking, one of the most popular backpacking trips near the Bay Area is at Big Basin. The Skyline-to-the-sea Trip is a 30 mile, 3 day backpacking trip from the mountains to the ocean. More information can be found here.

Big Basin is also a surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing destination. More specifically, Waddell Beach is many surfers favorite spot and it's also a part of Big Basin State Park. Bring your gear and either hike or drive to Waddell Beach in Rancho Del Oso! More Information can be found here.

While you're in the Santa Cruz Mountains, check out Mount Hermon Adventure Company for ziplining, redwood canopy tours, and aerial adventure courses!

 
$79.95
 

Tips for Visiting Big Basin

  • The damp vegetation in Big Basin is home to awesome wildlife; look for newts, frogs, salamanders, and banana slugs!
  • Mosquitos can get bad at Big Basin, bring bug spray
  • If you'd like to volunteer at a state park, click here for more information about becoming a Campground and Park Host
  • There's another state park close to Big Basin called Little Basin, which is also great for camping
  • Big Basin is a great place for large group tours and field trips

Additional Links

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
21600 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, CA 95006
(831) 338-8860
Website

 
Santa Cruz Mountains

Santa Cruz Mountains

 

Back to Reality

It's difficult to muster up enough energy to leave Big Basin and head back to the concrete jungle. The sounds, smells, feelings, and tastes of the coastal redwood forest leave a lasting impression on you. It's easy to see why more than 100 years ago a group of conservationists had the foresight to know how special these old growth forests are and to put in the work to protect and preserve the park for future generations. If it weren't for these heroes efforts, most of the Santa Cruz mountains would be flattened and the lumber logged off for developments.

If you really enjoyed your time at Big Basin, consider visiting other similar destinations nearby, such as Sequoia National Park or Yosemite National Park. We also highly recommend visiting California's best kept secret, Pinnacles National Park, which is only 2 hours away from Big Basin!

 
$446.95

Big Basin Q&A

Question: Can bring my dog?

Answer: There are certain rules for pets in California State Parks. The most important rule is no leashes longer than 6 feet. Please take a look at this webpage on the CA State Park website for more information.