Mar 28, 2014 at 10:31 am #1314927
Any suggestions for Big Basin? Have hiked nearby, but never in the park. Looking to do a half day to full day hike, and an overnight sometime after that. What would you suggest for day hikes? This is the route I found from BA Hiker:
What would be your favorite 2 day overnight route? Which section of the Skyline to the Sea Trail is nicest and avoids long road sections?Mar 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm #2087095
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Yes, the standard loop is to Berry Creek Falls. Remember to carry a neutral density filter for your camera in order to slow down the shutter.
–B.G.–Mar 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm #2087188
Thanks for the photo advice – that dark under the canopy, huh? I'll have a P&S, either I have to rely on Auto or perhaps set it to Night?
How is the trail there after a rain? I think the thick forest duff would keep the trail from turning into a sticky mud fly trap like some Bay Area dirt trails. We specifically want to time a visit for after rain to see the waterfalls at a good flow and lots of amphibians and Banana Slugs.Mar 28, 2014 at 5:16 pm #2087190
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
When you shoot the waterfall, you want to slow down the shutter to be a large fraction of a second in order to get the silky water effect. There is a wooden platform with railing to shoot from so you don't need to use a monster tripod.
–B.G.–Mar 28, 2014 at 6:31 pm #2087217
By far the nicest parts of Skyline to the Sea are the lower miles, between the park headquarters and the ocean. That is approximately the last 10-12 miles of the 30 mile StS hike.
The "waterfall hike" utilizes part of this nice section of StS, starting on the StS at park headquarters, then veering off to the waterfalls, then looping back to headquarters. It's an absolutely superb loop, one of my all-time favorites in the Bay Area. It's Redwood eye candy the whole way. If you don't mind only doing 6-7 miles per day, it's your 2-day hike (camp at the backcountry campground above the waterfalls). If 6-7 miles isn't enough for you, you could tack on some out-and-back sections, by continuing a bit towards the ocean, for example.
For a half-day hike, another really nice hike in that area is the 4 miles or so (8 round-trip) from the main parking lot at Castle Rock State Park, out to the backcountry campground up there. I can't recall for sure, but I don't think this hike is part of the StS. I think it is two or three miles south of the east end of the StS. It is actually a lot more interesting than the upper 20 miles of the StS, IMHO, with stunning rocks and ridge views, although you won't get any solitude. If you have time, go check out the rock climbing areas, too.
– ElizabethMar 28, 2014 at 8:24 pm #2087260
Hi EJ. I live a few miles from the park HQ and have done all the trails there ad naseum.
As mentioned above, the standard day hike is from the park Headquarters to berry falls and back. Standard can mean tons of tourists on weekends. But it is famous for a reason. Alternately you can keep going and hike all the way to the ocean (12 miles) and Waddell beach where someone could pick you up, or where it is possible to then take two buses (connecting in Santa Cruz) back to the park. Just make sure you know the schedule.
Two alternate routes back from Berry falls are the Howard King trail and Sunset trail. The former is my usual route if I want to get away from the tourists – almost no one goes that way. There is a nice bench when you get to the ridge with some good views down the east Waddell creek gorge towards a the sea. There is an area on Howard King almost at the top, but not quite, which is like Western Garter Snake Eden, where I always see a ton of them, but I assume there are other relatively undisturbed parts of the park that might have the same.
Alternately you could start at Waddell beach and round-trip to the falls, or as far as you want to go, from the opposite direction.
As for overnights, there really isn't much of a typical 2 day trip, except perhaps out and back. Nothing in the Santa Cruz mountain is real wilderness, and if you hike for a good part of a day in any direction you will be back to civilization. You can camp at one site on that route, with reservations only (there is nothing that doesn't require reservations not anywhere on the peninsula). Alder is the campground that is usually used, several miles for the sea. There are a couple of other campgrounds on that route perpetually "closed for restoration" though I haven't checked their status in a number of years.
A far as the 'natural history' the area nearer the ocean, where the valley widens out is very interesting. That is where Alder campground is. One time when I was there overnight I heard 5 or 6 different great horned owls, each with a different unique call, hooting at each other from around the valley for hours. It was quite beautiful and magical.
If you are ambitious you could, after an overnight, hike back to the park HQ using the Clark connection via chalk mountain. Bring a map. You will get a "high" view of the park that way with distant vistas, and at chalk mountain (remains of on of the n ancient coastal reefs), a good view down towards the coast above Ano Nuevo (where the elephant seals bask in their squalid glory for part of the year).Apr 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm #2090339
Thank for all the excellent tips and advice. It's been awesome living in a place with a lot of local BPL members.
Just wanted to share one tip from a ranger I spoke with – he mentioned there are 3 routes from which to access Big Basin, but that two involve very narrow, windy roads with hairpin turns and big drops, one of which he said stands his hair on end even having grown up in the area.
He recommended driving highway 101 to Saratoga, then Highway 9 South to Boulder Creek, then taking not the first turn off to 236 but the second one to 236 West that's just past a gas station – this route is 2 lanes all the way.
He specifically recommended avoiding Bear Creek Rd from Highway 17.Apr 6, 2014 at 1:39 pm #2090352
Bear Creek is the fastest way to get to Boulder Creek from silicon valley. Once you are in boulder creek there is only one way to go. The part that goes the other way on 236, contrary to what the ranger said, is fine – roads like that are what people living around her call "regular" roads. If you want to go that way on your way back it is highly recommended as a scenic drive through the redwoods. From the intersection with hy 9 you can then drive back through Saratoga. Since I drove that section of hy 9 twice a day, 5 days a week for many years on my way to work I don't get people freaking out about it. Its beautiful, just remember to be polite and use the turnouts if you are going slow, and let people get by.
On the other hand if you are the sort of person that driving generally raises your blood pressure then skip it.
BTW bear creek isn't much better. If you REALLY have problems with driving in the mountains go the Scotts Valley – Mount Hermon Rd. – Hy 9 route.Apr 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm #2090395
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
EJ….Bear Creek road is not an issue…drive it all the time. Easy road. However he is right in taking Hwy 9 to the park. I have driven both entrances many times and feel they are both fine. Of the two, the one that starts in Boulder Creek is much easier and wider. I have driven much worse roads in the Sierra. Bear Creek Rd. could be quicker thoughApr 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm #2090398
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
and Marko is correct about taking 17 to Mt. Herman and then to Hwy 9 in Felton. I should know as I live in Scotts Valley :)Apr 7, 2014 at 10:37 am #2090634
Yeah, I feel like if you are going to Big Basin to see the scenery, and if you have a little extra time, then the you SHOULD take scenic route, and that is without question Hy 9 through Saratoga, go straight at the turn to Boulder creek (the way NOT going to Boulder Creek, i.e. 236) and go straight to the park. That way it will feel more like you are in the wilderness – once you get past the Mc'Mansions on lower hy 9 there will be minimal signs of human life for more than 20 miles.
Plus if you return on Hy 9 you can stop a Rose Market in Saratoga for Falafel. :-)
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