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Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Review

California's oldest state park is the best place to see old-growth redwoods without going north of San Francisco, and it's far less crowded than Muir Woods and other famous spots. The parkland ranges from sea level up to 2,000 feet in elevation, which means the landscape changes often, from dark redwood groves to oak pastures that are deep green in winter and bleached nearly white in summer. The mountain setting also makes for countless waterfalls, most visible during the winter rains. The visitor center is inland, at park headquarters in Boulder Creek. Staffing at the park's coastal entrance is spotty, but park information and check-in for camping, which is excellent, are available at a self-service kiosk. If you just want to get a feel for the redwoods, the Redwood Loop Trail is an easy half-mile path—great for kids—that takes in some of the tallest trees here, including the Mother of the Forest and the Father of the Forest. Find it across from the visitor center, where you can pick up a brochure pointing out significant trees along the way. Mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers can take the nearly level Canyon Road (a dirt fire road) back up the creek and into the woods.

Hikers looking for solitude might consider a more strenuous, uphill climb on Clark Connection to Westridge Trail, which rewards hard work with spectacular views of the ocean. Those who don't want to go anywhere can just stay on the windswept beach, where the main attraction is watching kite surfers get huge air on the windy shoreline waves.

A short walk on the Marsh Trail leads to the Rancho Del Oso Nature Center (www.ranchodeloso.org). Open on weekends from noon to 4, the center has natural-history exhibits and is the starting point for several self-guided nature walks.

Updated: 05-06-2013

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