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Best Big Basin Trail open right now in 2024

Big Basin Redwood State Park, the oldest state park in California, USA. This park, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Santa Cruz. 

It is a must-visit and is known for its magnificent coastal redwood trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old. Reaching heights of 250 feet (76 meters), these ancient trees are a sight to behold. But Big Basin Redwood State Park is more than just a beautiful natural wonder – it played a crucial role in preserving redwood forests.

Established in 1902, this park was a response to the rampant logging of redwood trees in the late 19th century. Thanks to its creation, approximately 3,800 acres (1,540 hectares) of old-growth redwoods have been conserved. Here visitors could explore the park’s 18,000 acres (7,300 hectares) and discover a diverse array of ecosystems, including lush canyons, waterfalls, and streams.

The park was home to a remarkable collection of coastal redwoods, which are the tallest living organisms on Earth. The most iconic tree in Big Basin Redwood State Park was the “Father of the Forest.”

The fire affected Big basin trails

Unfortunately, In August 2020, Big Basin Redwood State Park was significantly impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which was a series of wildfires that burned through parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains, including the park. The fire burned for several weeks and caused extensive damage to the park’s ecosystems and infrastructure. While redwoods are known to have some resistance to fire, the intensity of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire resulted in damage to many trees. Some of the park’s historic trees, including the iconic “Mother of the Forest” and “Father of the Forest,” were lost.

The fire also damaged park facilities and infrastructure. Many structures, including park buildings, visitor centers, campgrounds, and trails, were affected by the fire. Some structures were destroyed, while others suffered varying degrees of damage. The park’s headquarters and visitor center were among the structures lost in the fire.

The slow Recovering process Big Basin

Despite the destruction caused by the fire, the ecosystems in Big Basin have a remarkable ability to recover over time. Redwoods have evolved to withstand fire, and the heat from the fire can help stimulate the germination of their seeds. Redwoods have evolved to withstand fire, and the heat from the fire can help stimulate the germination of their seeds. The park’s natural regeneration process is expected to take place, with new growth emerging from the ashes.

The resilience of the redwood forest and the dedication of park staff and the community offer hope for the park’s future recovery and restoration.  Because after the fire, great efforts have been underway to assess and restore Big Basin Redwood State Park. The park administration, along with various organizations and volunteers, have been working to clear trails, remove hazardous trees, and plan for the park’s recovery. Restoration efforts focus on ensuring visitor safety, rehabilitating damaged areas, and protecting the park’s unique ecosystems.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park trails

Hiking and Trails: Big Basin Redwood State Park offers an extensive network of trails that cater to hikers of all skill levels. Popular trails include the Skyline to the Sea Trail, which extends from the park to Waddell Beach, and the Berry Creek Falls Loop, known for its stunning waterfalls. There are options for short, leisurely walks as well as longer, more challenging hikes.

When you walk to this park after the fire you won’t believe the actual situation. After few years and strong storms, the park and redwoods have started to blossom again. This park is a great reminder that life is constantly changing, and the redwood are already regrowing. It will take some time to be on it is splendor again, but we are glad it reopens.

If you were Wondering how Big Basin Redwoods State Park looks like after the 2020 CZU August Lightning Complex Fires. Here is a peek!

We live in Santa Cruz and have wanted to explore trails again. The trails opened in December 2022 the first time we visited. However, a few weeks later it closed again for 4 months due to that winter’s heavy rains. Back there we just did the loop trail because we didn’t do a reservation. Now they are not required. The fire was so strong that back then it Still smelling like fire but this time at the need of 2023 it was more pleasant and beautiful we were able to finish the meteor trail. We were hoping to do the waterfall hike – which is not open yet, but we take what we can and enjoyed this hike so much.

We hike in New Year Day with a group of friends. What a fun way to end the year.

 Skyline to the Sea and Meteor Trail loop

We choose the longest hike, and it took us about 3 hours, but it depends on your level. I am slow hiker. This hike is considered a moderately challenging, it takes an average of 2 h 20 min to complete according to the page. The length of this trail is 4.8-mile and moderate.

After parking we walked straight to the entrance of the dool trail that connected with skyline to the sea trail. You crossed the Maddow Creek. The trail is in good shape, and you can see the many black redwood trees burned with green branches and leaves coming. You crossed the paved bridge and keep following up the meteor trail loop up the hill following the Rogers creek. 

As you journey through this stunning landscape, keep an eye out for the Stanford Group – a collection of majestic trees that have miraculously withstood the fires that ravaged this area. As you continue, you’ll encounter the serene Opal Creek, still shimmering with its signature opalescent hue. The valley narrows and the redwoods tower even taller after crossing the creek. When you reach the Meteor Trail, that follows the Rogers Creek, be sure to make a left turn – it’s the only way to go! 

The trail takes you through a gently sloping ravine, but as you ascend, the ravine narrows and the redwoods become thicker, making for a truly immersive experience. Just be prepared for a steep climb!

As you journey down Middle Ridge Road and begin your descent towards Ocean View Summit (standing at 1689 feet or 515 meters), be sure to pause and take in the breathtaking views of the ocean. This popular trail offers a glimpse of the vast blue waters, making it a must-see stop on your hike. With no trees obstructing the view, you’ll have a clear perspective in all directions. Don’t miss out on this picturesque opportunity at Ocean View Summit.

As you embark on your hike, take note of the dramatic changes that have occurred in the landscape since the fire. No area was left untouched, leaving a consistent path of destruction in its wake. But amongst the damage, a new and vibrant layer has emerged as shrubs aggressively take over the forest. These resilient plants are thriving in the sunny conditions, their thick and waxy leaves providing a stark contrast to the towering redwoods. Keep your eyes peeled for these unexpected sights as you explore the majestic beauty of the forest.

The trail ends in Dool trail and in our way back you can do the redwood loop trail. That is at easy hike of about Length: 0.6 mile (~1 km) by the former headquarters area where you can see the remaining of some of tallest trees in the park (Mother and Father of the Forest). 

The length of this trail is 4.8-mile and moderate.

What you find:

This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and running, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. Banana slugs are everywhere.

The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. You’ll need to leave pups at home — dogs aren’t allowed on this trail.

Elevation gains 912 ft 

Length 5.2 mi · Climbing 870 ft

Currently Open Roads and Trails:



Dool Trail. Meteor Trail. Sunset Trail (from Dool Trail to Middle Ridge Road) Gazos Creek Road (from North Escape Road to Sandy Point)

Redwood Loop Trail

The Redwood Loop Trail offers visitors a serene stroll through the former park headquarters area, providing an opportunity to immerse oneself in the majesty of towering redwoods. While exploring this picturesque trail, keep an eye out for some of the tallest trees in the park, including notable giants like the Mother and Father of the Forest. Occasionally, guided walks are available upon request, offering a deeper insight into the natural wonders along the way (be sure to check availability at the temporary visitor center). With a trail length of approximately 0.6 miles (around 1 kilometer) and an elevation that remains level throughout, hikers can expect to spend a leisurely 45 minutes to an hour experiencing the awe-inspiring beauty of these ancient giants.
Guided walks occasionally available by request (check at temporary visitor center for availability)

What to see: some of tallest trees in the park (Mother and Father of the Forest)
Location: former park headquarters area
Trailhead: parking lot
Length: 0.6 mile (~1 km)
Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour 
Elevation: level

Opal Creek Loop

The Opal Creek Loop trail offers a captivating journey through the heart of the Big Basin core area, showcasing the tranquil beauty of Opal Creek and the majestic presence of old-growth redwoods. This scenic route begins at the parking lot and follows the Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail to Gazos Creek Road, where hikers can traverse a charming bridge and connect with the North Escape Road before looping back to the starting point. Along the way, adventurers can immerse themselves in the lush surroundings, marveling at the towering redwoods that have stood the test of time. With a trail length of approximately 0.5 miles (about 1 kilometer) and a mostly level elevation, hikers can expect to spend a leisurely 45 minutes to an hour exploring this enchanting forest landscape.
Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail to Gazos Creek Road, across bridge to North Escape Road, then back to parking lot

What to see: Opal Creek, old-growth redwoods
Location: Big Basin core area
Trailhead: parking lot
Length: ~0.5 mile (~1 km)
Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Elevation: level

Dool Trail Loop

The Dool Trail Loop trail offers a captivating journey through the serene landscapes of the Big Basin core area, showcasing a mix of old-growth trees and a forest in the process of recovery. Beginning at the parking lot, hikers can embark on this scenic adventure by following the Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail, which leads to the Dool Trail. This path winds through the tranquil wilderness, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the surroundings. As hikers traverse Gazos Creek Road and connect with the North Escape Road, they can witness the resilience of the forest ecosystem and enjoy stunning views along the way. With a trail length of approximately 1.75 miles (about 2.8 kilometers) and an elevation gain of around 140 feet (about 42.6 meters), adventurers can expect to spend around 1.5 hours exploring this captivating trail loop.


Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail to Dool Trail to Gazos Creek Road to North Escape Road to parking lot

What to see: old-growth trees, recovering forest
Location: Big Basin core area
Trailhead: parking lot
Length: 1.75 miles (~2.8 km)
Time: 1.5 hours
Elevation: ~140 (~42.6 m) feet of gain

Skyline to the Sea Trail (from Gazos Creek Road to North Escape Road)

Ocean View Summit Loop

The Ocean View Summit Loop presents an exhilarating trek through the heart of the park, offering an array of captivating sights and diverse landscapes to explore. Beginning at the parking lot, hikers can commence their journey by following the Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail, which leads to the enchanting Dool Trail. As adventurers traverse through the tranquil forest, they’ll be greeted by towering old-growth trees and witness the ongoing rejuvenation of the surrounding woodland. Continuing along Middle Ridge Road, the trail ascends to the Ocean View overlook, treating hikers to breathtaking vistas of the vast ocean expanses beyond. Descending back down Middle Ridge Road and joining Gazos Creek Road to North Escape Road, hikers can soak in the serene ambiance of the forest and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. With a trail length of approximately 4.15 miles (around 6.7 kilometers) and an elevation gain of about 500 feet (approximately 152 meters), explorers can anticipate spending 3 to 4 hours traversing this captivating loop, immersing themselves in the natural wonders of the park along the way.


Skyline to the Sea Connector Trail to Dool Trail to Middle Ridge Road up to Ocean View overlook, then down Middle Ridge Road to Gazos Creek Road to North Escape Road to parking lot

What to see: old-growth trees, recovering forest, ridge top hiking, ocean view
Location: mid-park
Trailhead: parking lot
Length:  4.15 miles ( ~6.7 km)
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation: ~500 feet (~152 m) of gain

Big Basin Trail hiking details -Things you need to know:

Reservations are not required anymore but parking is limited and first come first serve.

If you want, you can reserve parking space Reserve a parking space. 

🅿️ $6 per vehicle plus a $2 reservation fee or $10 per vehicle without a reservation. We love the pop pass (150 per yea) since we visit many state parks.

No reservations or fees are required for visitors arriving by foot, bike, or bus.

Big Basin is now open for limited day-use access. 

Reservations for parking are not required but are encouraged due to the limited amount of first-come, first-served parking available.

What to Bring:


A good Backpack, I love the Osprey

Hiking pole

Water bottle 

And I recommend good hiking shoes

Where to stay?

Visiting? you want to stay in Santa Cruz and here is all you wnat to know about where to stay in Santa Cruz

I hope this is helpful and enjoy the trails

Rocio

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I am Rocio

Hello there! Thank you for stopping by. My name is Rocio, and I’m a Latina mother with a wanderlust. I believe that family trips are important in forming well-rounded kids. Even when you have kids, you can still travel, so I help busy parents figure out how. Through my blog, Real world Mami, I want to give you tips that will help you plan epic trips to both well-known and less-known places around the world. Happy Travels!

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