This Hidden Gem California State Park May Be Even More Majestic Than The Famous Muir Woods

Sprawling over 18,000 acres, northern California's Big Basin Redwoods State Park houses the oldest collection of coastal redwoods within the Golden State. 

In 2020, the park was severely impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex fires, causing it to close. As of 2022, the park is open to visitors again, albeit in a limited capacity. Big Basin still provides a winding network of nature trails, as well as a breathtaking look at the natural recovery of a forest post-fire.

Despite California boasting an impressive 49 redwood state parks that are home to an extensive collection of striking redwood trees, these reserves are quick to garner mass gatherings of locals and tourists perusing the forest grounds. Muir Woods, in particular, is one of the most coveted redwood gems in the entire state. However, with a proximity just 30 minutes outside San Francisco, visitors will be hard-pressed to find a quiet corner within those woods.

While it may cost a few extra pennies to fill up your gas tank, the trek to Big Basin is worth every cent. Located an hour and 15 minutes from San Francisco, it's a secluded spot, nearly halfway between Santa Cruz and the Golden Gate Bridge, meaning visitors will experience a peace that's hard to come by at most of California's redwood displays.

The best of Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Nestled within the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a remarkable gem along California's northern coastline and a pocket of adventure that makes it a prime road trip resting point or day trip from nearby urban cities. As of the time of writing, the forest is still in the process of recovering from the CZU fires, but the majesty of the trees is no less apparent. Visitors will see fresh green sprouts shooting off the charred trunks, indicating that new life is already being born. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is also the oldest in California, marking it as an important part of the state's natural heritage.

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, several of the park's trails have reopened to visitors, including the Redwood Loop Trail, which is one of the best to experience everything Big Basin has to offer all at once. At just over half a mile in length, this cozy hiking trail guides visitors on a captivating stroll through the incredible landscapes and past some of the oldest, largest, and most resilient redwoods in the park. While the entirety of the trail is stunning, the highlight you'll want to keep your eyes open for is the Mother and Father trees of this forest. The Mother Tree holds the record for the tallest tree in this park at 329 feet tall. Meanwhile, the Father Tree is one of the two widest trees in the park.

Tips and tricks for a trip to the Redwoods

Setting yourself up for the redwoods trip of a lifetime begins with a carefully curated travel plan. Due to the ongoing recovery efforts, make sure to check in with the California Department of Parks and Recreation for information about accessing the park before planning your trip. The weather and climate are always two essential factors to consider, especially if you're visiting from out of state. Situated in the northern region of California, there really is no wrong time to visit this enchanting West Coast park, given the moderate year-round climate. However, the state's northern territory does tend to get chillier than would be expected of California, especially compared to its southern cities. Late summer and the first fall months of the year tend to provide the most optimal conditions for outdoor excursions. With a tinge of warmth still left in the air, but the majority of tourists back home after the summer holiday, September might just be the best time of year to visit this state park. 

If mapping your route into Big Basin from Santa Cruz, you'll want to follow Highway 9 from Boulder Creek onto Highway 236, which leads travelers into the heart of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Those heading south from San Francisco are advised to use Highway 101 and Highway 280 out of the city, which links to Highways 9 and 236. Upon arriving, you might want to consider reserving a parking space online, as spots tend to be limited if parking within the forest grounds, especially during peak seasons. While it's not required, it definitely takes the time and stress out of hunting down a spot.