Big BasinBig Basin is best explored in late spring or summer, because most of it is in the shade. It can be very rainy and muddy in winter. The southern part (on Waddell Beach) is foggy in the summer, though.
Hiking in Big BasinPictures of these trails
Map of Big Basin trails
Berry Creek Falls loop (Big Basin, 18kms, easy)
Skyline To The Sea (Big Basin, 18kms, easy)
Waddell Beach to Berry Falls to Chalk Mountain (Big Basin, 27kms, strenous)
Pescadero Creek Park to Big Basin (42kms, strenous)
Skyline To The Sea (20kms 5.5 hrs)
Whether you start at Big Basin's park headquarters or from China Grade, the Skyline-to-Sea trail is well marked. Best is to hike the Ridge trail that goes through a wonderful overlook point and then connects with the Skyline-to-Sea trail (which is more like a fire road).
It winds its way through luxuriant vegetation, following the course of Waddell Creek and ending about 17kms later at the southern visitor center at Rancho Del Oso, from which it is about one paved km to Hwy 1 (50kms south of Halfmoon Bay, 5kms south of Ano Nuevo, 5kms north of Davenport, 30 kms north of Santa Cruz). Waddell Beach is just 500 meters away, on the other side of hwy 1.
Since the trail is mostly downhill, it should not take longer than 5 hours (2002 time: 4h 40').
About 7kms into the hike, a short detour leads to the famous Berry Creek Falls (and there are more waterfalls upstream, if you care to extend the detour).
Directions to the visitor center of Big Basin.
From San Francisco take Interstate 280 to 92 west to 35 south to 9 south.
Continue on Highway 9 about 12 kms to Highway 236.
Turn right into 236 and drive about 16 kms to Big Basin State Park
(Big Basin home page,
Estimate two hours from San Francisco, one hour from San Jose, one hour from
Pescadero Creek Park to Big Basin
One can hike in one day from Sam McDonald Memorial Park to Pescadero Creek Park to Portola Redwood Park to Big Basin to Waddell Beach. See this description.
Waddell Beach to Berry Falls to Chalk Mountain (27.5 kms, 8.5 hrs)
One can hike a loop entering Big Basin from Waddell Beach (instead of the more touristy park headquarters). It is also a much easier drive. No fee is required. And the park gets combined to the beach. Waddell Beach/ Rancho del Oso is located about 15 minutes north of Santa Cruz, or south of Pescadero. There are signs indicating both Waddell Beach and Rancho del Oso.
From Waddell Beach (free parking) hike 2km to Twin Redwoods, then straight up
along the "Skyline To The Sea" trail.
It is about 2.5 kms to the junction with the McCrary Ridge trail and
about 5 kms to the junction with the Henry Creek trail. Here one can turn right
and then left (well marked) to reach Berry Falls (0.5 km). The trail continues
upstream 0.5 km to Silver Falls and Golden Cascade (perhaps the most impressive sight of Big Basin).
At the junction with Sunset trail, take a left towards Sunset campground.
This reaches a fire road, Alderson Landing Road: turn right
and continue 1km.
Turn left onto Canyon Road for 2 kms, then straight into Chalks Rd for 3 kms
that take you to the top of Chalk Mountain (a very short and well-marked
detour takes to the very top).
junction with the McCrary Ridge trail: 2.5 kms (1h 30')
junction with the Henry Creek trail: 5 kms
Berry Falls: 0.5 km (2h 30') (30' break)
Golden Cascade: 0.5 km
junction with Canyon Rd: 1km (4h)
junction with Chalks Rd: 2km (5h)
Chalk Mountain: 3 km (5h30')
Westridge trail: 7km (7h30')
Twin Redwoods to Waddell Beach: 2km or 4kms along the hikers' trail (8h' or 8hr 30')
Grand Total: 27.5 kms (8.5 hours at a brisk pace)
Berry Creek Falls loop (18kms, 5hrs)