Big Basin Redwoods State Park: The Complete Guide

Redwood trail at Big Basin State Park
David Madison / Getty Images
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Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Boulder Creek, CA 95006, USA

Typically, you have to drive to the northern reaches of California to see the most impressive groves of redwood trees, which isn't very convenient if you're on a quick trip. However, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is just an hour south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz mountains, making it one of the easiest places to visit from the Bay Area to see these mighty trees.

Unfortunately, wildfires decimated most parts of the park in August of 2020. Redwoods can withstand forest fires and many of the iconic trees are a bit charred but thankfully still standing. However, the fires destroyed the park headquarters, visitors center, campgrounds, and trails, and almost all parts of Big Basin Redwoods State Park were closed to the public until further notice.

Where to Camp

There are four campgrounds inside of the state park with options for tent camping and RVs. There are no electrical hook-ups for RVs, but there are dump stations. Visitors who are traveling through the park on horseback can also stay in one of the horse campgrounds, which include a corral for their riding partner to spend the night.

For a step up from pitching your own tent, the Huckleberry Campground offers tent cabins with wooden floors, walls, and canvas roofs. They come with two double beds and mattresses, although you'll have to bring—or rent—bedding unless you book one of the deluxe cabins.

Nearby amenities include bathrooms with flush toilets and pay showers with hot water. The camp store is inside the park in case you need to pick up any last-minute emergency items while you're there.

For more camping options in the area, check out the best places to camp around Santa Cruz.

How to Get There

Big Basin State Park is only 25 miles north of the city of Santa Cruz, going north on Highway 9 and then Highway 236. However, the roads are narrow and windy, so factor in at least an hour to drive there. Downtown San Jose is also only an hour away via Highway 9 but coming from the other direction. San Francisco is 65 miles north of Big Basin and the journey by car takes about an hour and 40 minutes.

Because it's so close to major Bay Area cities, visitors without cars often use a ride-sharing app to get to the park. However, cell service is extremely limited in the park, so don't rely on using your phone to get a ride back out.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Camping reservations are a necessity on weekends and during the summer. Make them as early as you can. 
  • You need quarters to pay for the camp showers, so make sure to bring some or get change from the camp store.
  • Up to eight people can stay in one family drive-in or walk-in site. Standard tent or RV drive-in sites allow parking for one vehicle and one extra vehicle.
  • Tent site means just tents and not tent trailers or other tiny trailers. Don't try to get away with it because you could be asked to leave.
  • The moist environment is ideal for mosquitos, so make sure you have long sleeves and insect repellant to wear in the evenings when sitting around the campfire.
  • Raccoons, birds, and squirrels will steal food if you leave it out. They can break into tents, picnic table storage boxes, and ice chests, too. Your best bet is to hold onto your food or lock it in your car (there aren't bears in the area, so you don't need to use a bear locker).
  • Poison oak grows in Big Basin, so be careful when walking through the underbrush. If you're not sure what it looks like, a park ranger can help.
  • Dogs are allowed except in the Rancho Del Oso section of the park but must be kept on a leash and in the car or tent at night. They can only go to the picnic area, campground, and on paved roads—not on hiking trails.
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Big Basin Redwoods State Park: The Complete Guide