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Hikes from Rancho del Oso

There are many incredible trails at Rancho del Oso – Big Basin Redwoods State Park, taking you through seven different habitats. Come explore all that the coastal section of Big Basin Redwoods State Park has to offer!

Hikes from the Nature and History Center

Hoover Nature Trail Loop
Distance: 0.8 miles
Time:  45 minutes – 1 hour
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail ascends a section of the old Highway One, originally a wagon road between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Below is a large freshwater marsh. Above, hardy ferns, bulbs, and other flowering plants, cling to the rocky road-cut. The views expand as the trail climbs toward a low ridge, then enters a Monterey Pine Forest, and descends a shaded slope leading back to the starting point.

Marsh Trail
(Trail ends at Waddell Creek from October – late April)
Distance: .4 miles
Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
This trail is perfect for families looking for a short hike to explore the marsh and Waddell Creek, or for birders seeking to find the next bird on their list. The Marsh Trail is teeming with life. Rabbits are frequently seen scurrying off the trail, while dragonflies swoop over the water, and birds flit among the willows growing near the creek. Due to the abundance of water, flowering plants have an especially long season here. The Marsh Trail connects the Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center to the Ranger Station by a bridge over Waddell Creek.
From approximately October – late April, this trail ends at Waddell Creek due to seasonal bridge removal.

Hikes from the Ranger Station

Skyline to the Sea Bypass Trail Loop
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
This loop takes you through a sampling of all that Rancho del Oso – Big Basin Redwoods State Park has to offer in less than two hours! Taking the Skyline to the Sea Bypass Trail and returning on Skyline to the Sea, you will pass through Riparian and Coastal Scrub habitat, Monterey Pine, Mixed Evergreen and Coast Redwood forest, with views of the Waddell Valley reaching out to the Beach community and Marsh Habitat. Hikers will see one of the few old growth redwoods in the valley, the Eagle Tree, and depending on the season, newt crossings, wildflower displays, or yellow leaves carpeting the forest floor. Be sure to pick up a free interpretive trail guide at the beginning of your hike to learn more about the area!
From approximately October – late April, this trail requires a creek crossing at Waddell Creek due to seasonal bridge removal. Proceed with caution.

Skyline to the Sea to Berry Creek Falls
Distance: 14 miles round trip
Time: 6 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
One of the most popular trails at Rancho del Oso – Big Basin Redwoods State Park, it is no mystery why, with a nearly 70-foot tall waterfall reward after 7 miles! The Skyline to the Sea trail can be hiked in its entirety, or bikers can travel this moderate difficulty trail about 6 miles up the canyon before locking up at the bike rack and hiking the remaining half-mile to Berry Creek Falls. From Waddell Beach along Waddell Creek and through the Coast Redwoods, this is one of the most enjoyable trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains! Bring plenty of water and snacks for this hike!
From May 1 – October 31, backpackers can make reservations to stay at Trail Camps. Reservations can be made by calling (831)338-8861.

Skyline to the Sea Bypass Trail to Clark Connector/Westridge Trail Junction
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Travel from sea level to magnificent views of Año Nuevo State Park and coastal valleys on this trail that brings you atop the ridge. Begin your hike on the Skyline to the Sea Bypass Trail before taking the Clark Connector Trail up the hill, where you will pass through Mixed Evergreen forest and be surrounded by magnificent Bay Trees and California Nutmegs before emerging into the exposed sunny Chaparral, offering expansive views of the Waddell Valley. Be sure to bring plenty of water for this uphill, in and out trail.

Waddell Beach to Chalk Mountain
Distance: 15 miles
Time: 7- 8 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Hiking to Chalk Mountain on the West Ridge Trail is one of the most challenging and scenic trails in Big Basin. This epic day hike begins along the Skyline to the Sea Bypass trail before climbing the Clark Connector Trail and Westridge Trail 1,000 feet to a ridgetop with some outstanding scenic vistas along the way. The trail then follows a redwood-covered ridge before breaking out into open chaparral and climbing Chalk Mountain, offering sweeping views over Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the coast. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for this uphill, in and out trail.

Skyline to the Sea Thru-hiker permits

If you are planning a hike from Big Basin Park Headquarters to Waddell Beach and would like to park a “shuttle car” at Rancho del Oso overnight for your day hike the following day, you must make a reservation. A Thru-hiker permit is not a Backcountry Permit and does not give you permission to remain in the backcountry or in trail camps overnight.