Guest Post: Hiking Big Basin Redwoods


Emily Siegenthaler is the senior member services assistant in the California State Parks Foundation’s San Francisco office. Originally from Boston, Emily has loved living among the redwood trees in California. This is her recent account of a hike through Big Basin Redwoods State Park:

When I first moved to California in 2009 I lived in Santa Cruz, and visiting the redwoods there was one of my favorite activities. So when a friend suggested we go hike Big Basin a couple weeks ago, I was thrilled—there is nothing quite as breathtaking as being in the presence of these extraordinary, ancient giants.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, it was established in 1902. In fact, starting with the Sempervirens Club in 1900, local citizens have spent years fighting to preserve its beauty, and their efforts over the decades have paid off! It is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, and the park consists of over 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest.

My friend and I decided to take in as much of the park as we could in an afternoon, choosing a hike to Berry Creek Falls which allows explorers to experience the wide range of habitats represented in Big Basin. There are multiple routes hikers may take to reach the falls depending on desired difficulty. We opted to take the Sunset Trail out and the Skyline to the Sea Trail back, which is the most strenuous and totals at approximately 11 miles. The hike takes 4-6 hours and, of course, what makes this hike worth it are the four waterfalls you witness along the way: Cascade Falls, the Golden, Silver Falls, and Berry Creek Falls. On our route, Berry Creek Falls were that last, lower falls, and they are the largest.

Berry Creek Waterfall

The Sunset Trail is filled with redwoods and opens up into a small, rolling valley before you reach the falls—lovely views, and a nice place to stop and take a breather. The soft sandstone has also been etched upon by the hundreds of people who have come to enjoy Big Basin, one message eroding away into the next. On the return, the Skyline to the Sea Trail threads its way through the park along Waddell Creek to the beach and adjacent Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve, a freshwater marsh. This nice, hilly (but shady!) route back is dotted with redwoods, creek beds, bridges, and of course, banana slugs.

I highly recommend Big Basin Redwoods State Park to anyone looking to hike amongst some of the oldest treasures of California. And with 80 miles of trails to choose from, you’re bound to find a hike that is exhilarating and perfect for you!

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