After three full-day bar review lectures (including today, Saturday) I decided to explore a new area in the Santa Cruz Mountains to clear the mind. I also said I would chime in if something cool happened, so here is something cool!
I left Stanford at 4:30 pm after class and arrived at Butano State Park at 5:30 pm. Butano State Park is a little further than my usual running locations so I was hoping the drive would be worth it. I heard good things about the trail in this park, but I was in for quite a treat. The 12-mile loop I put together was some of the best technical single track I have ever done. All but 6 minutes of the 124-minute run (~11.5-12 miles total) was on narrow single track and not one step of trail was repeated. The trail surface was super soft, but sharp turns and frequent obstructions demanded complete focus. The starting elevation was just over 300 feet and the high point was about 1,300 feet on the Indian Trail. The loop was hilly with some steep parts, but none of the hills were long.
Photo by Kevin Gong, who provides a fantastic resource for hikes in the Bay Area and the Sierras.
I started from the park entrance on the Jackson Flat Trail which quickly enters deep redwood forest as it meanders through small basins, accumulating elevation with time. I turned onto the Canyon trail which seemingly hangs onto the hillside – one errant stride on this very narrow trail would send you rolling down the very steep hillside. The Canyon trail gains elevation and features some open areas with spectacular views down the Little Butano Creek Canyon. At this point I was above the marine layer that was reaching into the lower portions of the canyon and the view of the redwood “carpet” emerging from the fog was surreal.
I turned off the Canyon trail and took Indian Trail to the Olmo Fire Road. The short section on the Olmo Fire Road provides sweeping views off both sides of the ridge before I returned into the deep redwood forest along the Doe Ridge Trail. The Doe Ridge Trail was my favorite part of the run with giant redwoods lining the super soft trail and some straight areas to open up the stride. The lush and verdant forest made me feel like I was in a prehistoric scene. I didn’t want it to end, but I reached the Goat Hill Trail junction after 1.6 awesome miles.
I turned right on the Goat Hill Trail and took it down to the Little Butano Creek Fireroad where I turned right. The end of the fire road turns into the Butano Creek Trail. The Butano Creek Trail starts rather technical but finishes wider. I crossed over the stream several times and ran past many huge trees. At the end of the Butano Creek Trail, I made a right and ran down the paved road a short bit and then a left on another paved road to link up more single track along the Six Bridges Trail. A nice finale of single track deposited me back at the Park Entrance parking.
I didn’t see anybody on the trails in the evening and I felt like I was out in the wilderness at points. The solitude that one can find in the many parks of the Santa Cruz Mountains is amazing, considering how close it is to the Bay Area megalopolis. I will definitely return to Butano State Park to run this sweet loop again!
Location (time): ~11.5-12 mile loop Map
Start at Park Entrance Jackson Flat Trail (00:00)
Canyon Trail (20:05)
Indian Trail (42:30)
Olmo Fire Road (46:15)
Doe Ridge Trail (48:30)
Goat Hill Trail (59:30)
Butano Creek Fire Road (1:03:11)
Butano Creek Trail (1:06:55)
Six Bridges Trail (1:17:10)
Finish at Park Entrance (1:23:51)