Big Basin is one of my favorite places to run. Established in 1902, it’s California’s oldest state park and features the largest continuous stand of old growth redwood forest (in square miles) south of Humboldt State Park (250 miles to the north). It’s only 1.5 hours away from the population centers of the Bay Area, but feels much further. Big Basin’s boundaries contain over 18,000 acres, but trails link to adjacent protected lands. All told, there are hundreds of miles of delicious single track to explore in the “redwood belt” of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In my opinion, winter is the best time to visit Big Basin; the forest is lush and vibrant with a carpet of redwood sorrel and ferns and ambient fresh air. The most famous hike in the park is the Berry Creek Falls Loop which passes through an area of impressive waterfalls, including Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, Golden Cascade, and numerous smaller waterfalls. These waterfalls are particularly inspiring in the winter after a heavy rain when they turn into swift torrents (see February 2009). The 11 mile waterfall loop starts at the Park Headquarters and entails 2,245 feet of elevation gain and is entirely under old growth redwoods. I extended the run to 20 miles by starting at China Grade, including a portion along Opal Creek which has some of the best redwoods in the park. I also ran the Timms Creek Trail, which follows a stream and a passes through a nice grove of redwoods. There was decent flow in the waterfalls, but with El Nino kicking into high gear, I expect the volume to increase dramatically over the next few weeks. In the mean time, here are some photos and a video of the run!
Many more photos after the jump!