Hike Date: May 30, 2011
Distance: ~ 10 miles
Trail(s): Redwood Loop Trail, Skyline to the Sea Trail
Where’s it at? Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains


For Memorial Day 2011 a friend and I went to Big Basin for the day and hiked a couple of the trails. This was my friend’s first time there but I’d visited a few times before. Tip: Don’t go on Memorial Day! There was hardly anywhere to park, and the trails were very crowded.

Day Use parking is $10 per vehicle. The park also has campsites which include drive up, walk-in, and trail camps for backpackers. There is a general store and a small store selling camping supplies, food, and drinks. There are some trail maps available at the ranger station including an interpretive guide to the Redwood Loop which corresponds with numbered signs at key locations along the trail.

We started out with the Redwood Loop which is a short 1 mile hike through the largest redwoods in the park, including the “Mother of the Forest” tree, which is the largest. This trail is flat and wheelchair accessible with great scenery. It’s a must do at least once while visiting Big Basin and for some it would be the main attraction.

After the Redwood Loop we headed onto the Skyline to the Sea Trail, which is a 30(+/-) mile trail that goes from Skyline Blvd. (Hwy 35) down to Waddell Beach on Hwy 1 at the coast. I’ve backpacked this trail before, which I highly recommend. It travels through 3 different State Parks and has numerous trail camps along the way. Hiking or packing the whole trail is usually done in 2-3 days.

The section of the Skyline to the Sea Trail that we hiked was from the Park HQ to Berry Creek Falls and back. Berry Creek Falls flows all year but if you go earlier in the year you’ll see a much more spectacular falls. You can do the Sunset Trail to make it a loop instead of out and back but it adds a little mileage and is a lot more strenuous.

There has been a portion of the STTS Trail closed for quite a while now, but the detour isn’t bad at all. However, the signage could be improved along the detour as there’s one junction where you can be a little unsure which of the 4-5 trails to take as part of the detour. A good map is recommended…the one I have is great and is a National Geographic Map of Skyline to the Sea Trail which I picked up at a local REI when I backpacked the whole thing a couple years ago.

This trail is almost 100% covered by tree canopy and thus shaded. You won’t find any large panoramic scenic views along this leg of the trail and I do not believe you can view the ocean at all. However, the redwoods and dense green foliage including ferns and flowers makes up for it. There are also a number of somewhat scenic bridges to cross along the way, maybe about 15 of them when all is said and done on this section. I do personally like panoramic views and there’s a tiny bit of added anxiety when you can’t see where you’re going to end up and really have no concept of how far you’ve gone or how much is left without a device or map of some sort.

You want to race anyone else you see on the trail, because they’re all probably headed for the same bench that you are, which has the best view of Berry Creek Falls looking at it across the chasm. The pictures of the falls below are taken from that bench, and it also serves as a great spot to take a drink and have lunch or a snack if you brought it. Whether you’re doing the loop or out and back, you can still also walk down to the trail the runs along Berry Creek and view the falls from different perspectives. When we arrived at the bench on this trip we found 2 groups there, and a 4th arrived shortly after us, and we had to almost be rude to score an opportunity to sit down for a few minutes!

Highly recommend Big Basin’s Skyline to the Sea Trail for a great redwood forest hiking experience. I personally enjoy it a tiny bit more than the redwood hikes up in Muir Woods, though I’ll take a redwood hike any day. This is a great place to go on a hot summer day, as it’s all shaded, but to get the best falls you do want to visit earlier or after some rainfall.

Photos from Redwood Loop and Big Basin(click to enlarge)

Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
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http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-redwood-memorial-and-skyline-to-the-sea-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-redwood-memorial-and-skyline-to-the-sea-trail/ http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-redwood-memorial-and-skyline-to-the-sea-trail/
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea
Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea Hiking in Big Basin - Redwood Loop Trail and Skyline to the Sea

Directions to Big Basin Headquarters


View Hiking Redwood Loop and Berry Creek Falls in a larger map

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