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Big Basin State Park: Day Hike
My goal is to hike once every week, and this weekend we decided to visit Big Basin State Park, which is about 50 minutes from us, and in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It’s been since January 20109 since we had last visited, therefore it was time to visit again. It just opened last week, and California State Parks didn’t make the official announcement until last Monday.
“Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is California’s oldest state park. It covers more than 18,000 acres ranging from sea level to more than 2,000- feet elevation. This acreage launched the state park movement in California.
Big Basin’s biggest attraction— literally
is a rare stand of awe-inspiring, ancient coast redwoods that are among the tallest
and oldest trees on Earth. Some measure more than 300-feet tall and 50 feet in
circumference. Scientists estimate that these trees may range from 1,000 to 2,500 years old.
Spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, more than 80 miles of roads
and trails, and a fascinating natural and cultural history have beckoned millions of visitors to Big Basin since 1902
Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, park vegetation consists of old-growth and recovering second-growth redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet.
The night before our hike, I downloaded the map to my phone and tried to plan it from our desktop.
Since one of our friends wanted to go on the hike, it made it difficult planning where to exact hike since we had a different level of expertise. Luckily Brandon is an avid hiker and agreed to take on a 10-mile hike, when typically he plans for 5-7 mile hike.
Thus said, we decided to Berry Falls, a 10-mile trek, and we packed as we did for Nisene Marks, which meant that lunch and snacks are a must!
Entrance Cost Prep: They accept card, therefore credit card packed!
2,000+ ft elevation
2 Liters Total
2x 20oz water bottle
Quest Bar (Donut Flavor)
Entire Parking lot is open
Arrived at 7:45 am despite it opens at 8am
Water for Hiking Mileage Ratio
5 miles = 1 liter minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal
Goal Hike: 10 Miles, 2,000+elevation, 5+ hours
2 Liters of Water
Hot Hikes: Water to Hiking Mileage Ratio:
5 miles = 1 Liter of Regular Water;
1 Liter of Water with Electrolytes,
preferably Nuun Sport maybe with Caffeine for a mid-hike energy boost.
We were hesitant about the arrival time because of the vague, limited parking wording. We planned to arrive right at 8 am, when it opens. We had forgotten that there is no gate closing the park entry, therefore technically, we could have arrived earlier. The parking availability is the same as usual and the cost was $10, which could be paid in cash or card.
Limited parking is meant that it will get packed, and the abundance of parking is not like city parking. There are only the designated spots available and you cannot park on the side of the road.
Restrooms: It’s open and it’s only at the beginning near the Visitors center
Store: it’s open with limited entry and you must wear a mask
Option 1: Arrive earlier around 7 am and pledge the honor system and pay when you leave since there is no other option before 8 am.
Option 2: Purchase a State Parks Pass and arrive early without batting an eyelash. You can purchase it in-person at Big Basin, or you can order it online.
People started pouring in a little past 8 am and seemed to be in a hurry. Unsure if they are freaked out about COVID-19 and cannot stop for a break.
We looked at the map on the bulletin and realized the Barry Falls Hike is now a one-way loop. Usually, we hike there and back. That means there is a new and exact route to take. On our way back, people did not take the one-way trails seriously, but please follow it. It’s to ensure people are not passing people since the paths can be narrow.
We took the Skyline to Sea trail for .7 miles. It went towards the left and went up and up. At first, it seemed as it was taking us a weird direction, but please follow it up to the fire road, Middle Ridge Road.
It was uphill on Middle Ridge Road for .34 miles.
The route we usually would take was closed off, and we were forced to continue onto Middle Ridge road for .262 miles instead of hiking straight to the Skyline to Sea trail.
We made it towards the same junction we would go down, and all looked familiar again, which mean we continued to go down, down, and down for 2.56 miles until we are at the same level with the creek.
You know you are close to Berry Falls as soon as you approach the creek, cross over it, and then cross over a fallen tree.
It felt like we were playing leapfrog with the family, who probably thought the hike ended at the creek since the tree blocked off the trail.
We were the first ones there! Woohoo. The early bird catches the worm. We were able to snap pictures of each other, and I started eating my snacks since this was technically the halfway point.
Note: there was broken tape, and more than likely, the viewpoint and benches were supposed to be closed. Since someone broke the tape, we hanged out for a bit until people started pouring in all at once. Crazy how everyone had the same idea and was trekking as fast as possible.
It was sad to see those who continued to go without taking a break. If I am planning a 10-mile hike, I will stop and embrace the views. We did not drive 50 minutes and hiked 10 miles, not to enjoy the views.
Since we had to do the loop, we continued going up along the Barry Falls Trail for 2.13 miles, a route we never usually take, and it was a pleasant surprise.
We hiked above the waterfall and saw several other waterfalls along the way.
It was a bit technical climbing up since some of the steps were high and required grabbing onto the cables to make that step.
Beautiful hike and loved seeing the lush green fern and redwoods.
We took a right to the Sunset Trail for 2.5. miles, which will loop us to where we had started. It seemed like the forever trail TBD. It was basically all uphill
There is a .979 hike back to the headquarters, which is primarily up and then back down.
Along the way, lots more people were hiking and in the wrong direction. The parking was full, and there was a line of people waiting to enter the parking lot. We had never seen it this full. Crazy to see people lined up to visit at 1:30 pm. It didn’t make sense to use.
Regardless, we had a great time, and glad arrived early.
REMINDER: LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND
Lastly, please remember to leave LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND and leave it better than you found it. Pack your trash. You brought it in, and you can take it out and properly dispose of it.