Big Basin Redwoods State Park,
California State Parks,
Santa Cruz County
5 mile out and back from park headquarters to an incredible sandstone outcropping, with wonderful views of the area.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5 mile out and back hike begins at about 1000 feet, climbs to about 2150 feet, then returns to the trailhead. It is moderate, with a total elevation change of about 1200 feet. The elevation at Big Basin ranges from about 200 feet to over 2280 feet, so other hikes originating at this trailhead range from easy to strenuous.
Mostly shaded, but full sun at the top of Buzzard's Roost.
2 1/2 hours.
Nice any time.
There are quite a few routes that lead to Big Basin from the bay area. You can make the trip long and scenic or longer and more scenic. Check a road map to pick the routes suitable from your location. The following are somewhat generic directions. From CA 35 (Skyline Boulevard) in Santa Cruz County, turn west onto CA 9 at Saratoga Gap. Drive west about 6 miles and turn right onto CA 236. Drive about 8 miles to the park headquarters, and park in the lot across the street from the ranger station/park headquarters. (Note: if you or your fellow passengers are prone to car sickness, the southern leg of 236 is less barfy. Instead of turning onto CA 236 6 miles west of Saratoga Gap, continue on CA 9 another 7 miles to Boulder Creek, and take a right onto CA 236 there.)
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, restaurants, and gas in Boulder Creek. Big Basin has extensive camping options, including several drive-in campgrounds and backcountry camps. Campground information (with links to reserve) from hipcamp.
There are several parking lots at Big Basin, but park visitation is high, so plan on arriving early on weekends to ensure parking. $10 day use fee (pay at the ranger station/park headquarters if entry kiosk is unattended). Maps available at the ranger station or kiosk. Bathrooms just north of the park headquarters building. There is no direct public transportation to the park.
Most trails are open to hikers and equestrians. Bikes are only permitted on fire roads. Some trails are designated hiking only. Dogs are not permitted on trails (leashed dogs are allowed on paved park roads). Park hours 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
The Official Story:
CSP's Big Basin page.
Big Basin Info (recording) 831-338-8860
Map Choices/More Info:
The official Big Basin map (available at the park) is most helpful, particularly for the detail of the park headquarters, which helps to find the trails.
CSP's Big Basin brochure and map
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the park.
Dave Baselt's Big Basin Redwoods State Park map is an excellent guide to Big Basin (order from Redwood Hikes).
Redwood Hikes has a great map and descriptions of this hike.
Semperviren Fund's Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Map 1) is a great map for the northern section of Big Basin, particularly useful if you are interested in long hikes from adjacent parks such as Butano and Pescadero Creek.
BBRSP's unofficial home page.
Cyberhikes has photos and descriptions of a few Big Basin hikes.
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and some trail descriptions.
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
View 68 photos from the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area,
there's a motorcycle/ATV trail called Troll Trail. I sat at the Lodge
Camp trailhead one day and looked up at the horribly steep path, a deep
gash that might be run downhill or uphill; it's hard to tell from the
map and all day I saw no one on it. All I knew for sure about Troll Trail
is that it scared me, and scared me badly. The more I thought about navigating
the nasty grade (despite the fact that all I'm capable of riding are the
easiest trails, and that I was in no danger of accidentally wandering
onto Troll Trail) the more spooked I got. Troll Trail became my moniker
for any scary road or trail, whether taken by car, motorcycle, or on foot.
When a bay area hiker recently asked me to write about Big Basin, and
recommended the Buzzard's Roost hike, I did a little surfing and found
a series of photos of Pine Mountain Trail on Cyberhikes. The photo of
what Cyberhikes calls "the wall," scared me. Scale is difficult
to discern, but the photo shows a sheer slab of stone, and the description
says it's 20 feet tall. I'm no rock climber! How would I make it up the
wall? Pine Mountain Trail
quickly became the new Troll Trail in my life. I was intrigued and frightened.
Like a victim in a horror movie who can't resist exploring the dark cellar,
I planned a visit to Big Basin. The night before my assault of the troll
trail, I slept badly. I wondered, am I really a capable hiker, or just
a weakling who can only deal with well-groomed 7% grade trails that small
children and grandmas choose? (No offense to any small children or grandmas
intended.) The next morning I arrived at Big Basin, and started uphill,
muttering "troll trail" under my breath like a mantra. With
steely determination I ascended from the redwoods to the madrones and
then to the pines, wound my way up the mountain, and then I faced the
wall. Truthfully, it was no big deal. It's just a tougher than usual rock
scramble; no problem with sticky-soled shoes. In fact, the trek to Buzzard's
Roost is one of the most delightful hikes in the bay area, if you don't
mind (or if you look forward to) a little challenge now and then along
the way. The moral of the story is that troll trails don't have to be
terrifying. It's easy to get psyched out by photos (which can be deceiving),
or hikers' tall tales. Take troll trails one step (or wheel) at a time,
know your limits,
and what seemed impossibly gnarly can become just another notch on your