Rancho del Oso (Big Basin Redwoods State Park)
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Boil Water Notice Cancelled 11/27/2023
Drinking Water at Rancho del Oso Walk-in Campground (fountain near restrooms) and Welcome Center was under a Boil Water Notice. It is no longer necessary to boil your tap water or for you to consume bottled water. Click here to read cancellation notice.
There are now five walk-in campsites by reservation and one shared non-reserved bike-in site available temporarily at the Rancho del Oso Horse Camp. No horse camping is available at this time. To learn more, visit the Rancho del Oso Walk-In Campground webpage.
As a result of damage from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, there are currently no horse-accessible trails at Rancho del Oso.
Crumb Clean Campaign
This park is Crumb Clean! Watch this short video to learn about the marbled murrelet, an endangered bird that nests in the park, and how you can protect it. Vea el video en español aquí.
Visiting Rancho del Oso
Rancho del Oso is the coastal portion of Big Basin Redwoods State Park and is located 17 miles north of Santa Cruz off Highway 1.
Rancho del Oso has served as a wild and rugged landmark to travelers along the coast since Spanish sailors watched for the massive cliffs they called Sierra Blanca from their galleons in the 1600s. The canyon carved out by Waddell Creek supports a remarkable diversity of native plant communities, including coastal strand (beach), coastal scrub, riparian (streamside), meadow, marsh, Monterey pine forest, mixed evergreen forest, chaparral, and redwood forest.
Things to Do
There are two visitor centers, both open from 12 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday:
The larger Nature and History Center is located on the south side of the Waddell Creek Bridge at:
3600 Highway 1
Davenport, CA 95017
The Welcome Center is located on the north side of the Waddell Creek Bridge, 1/4 mile inland from the yellow gate across from the Waddell State Beach parking lot. The Welcome Center opened in October 2023.
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
Guided hikes, kids program, special events and more are hosted reguarly at the Nature and History Center. Please CLICK HERE for a complete list.
There are currently five walk-in campsites by reservation and one shared non-reserved bike-in site available temporarily at the Rancho del Oso Horse Camp. There is no horse camping available at this time. Learn more on the Rancho del Oso Walk-in Campground webpage.
SURFING, WINDSURFING, & KITEBOARDING
Waddell State Beach, located across Highway 1 from the park entrance, is known worldwide as one of THE spots for windsurfing and kite surfing. The steady strong northwest winds and good surf provide ideal conditions for this demanding sport. Launching from the tops of incoming waves the best windsurfers can complete full loops and continue on their way. With the strong winds and occasionally heavy surf, Waddell Beach is not recommended for novice wind surfers. Regular surfers and boogie boarders also find it an ideal spot to pursue their activities.
A good place for bird watching is on the inland side of Highway 1 in the Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve.
Basic Park Information
Rancho del Oso is the coastal section of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and is approximately 17 miles north of Santa Cruz (about 7 miles north of Davenport), and 30 miles south of Half Moon Bay (59 miles south of San Francisco). The main facilities of the park are divided by Waddell Creek with the Welcome Center and main hiking trails on the north side and the Nature and History Center on the south side.
- From Santa Cruz:
Take Mission St./Highway 1 to the western edge of town. Continue on Highway 1 through the town of Davenport (9 miles). The entrance to the Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center is another 1.3 miles ahead at the bottom of a long grade right before the Waddell Creek Bridge.
Look for the small brown “Nature Center” sign on the right, then slow, and prepare to make the next right onto a dirt road. The Nature and History Center is approximately 1/4 mile inland. The road to the Welcome Center is on the north side of Waddell Creek Bridge 1/4 mile inland from the yellow gate across from Waddell State Beach parking lot. Day hikers and cyclists can park along Highway 1 or in the lot adjacent to Waddell Beach.
- From Half Moon Bay:
Take Highway 1 South, past the town of Pescadero, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and Año Nuevo State Park. The yellow gate on the road to the Welcome Center and hiking trails is on the left side of Highway 1, across from the Waddell Beach parking lot. Day hikers and cyclists can park in the lot adjacent to Waddell Beach or on the inland side of Highway 1. The Welcome Center and hiking trails are located approximately one mile beyond the gate. The entrance to Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center located on the south side of the Waddell Creek Bridge on the left onto the dirt road. The Nature and History Center is approximately 1/4 mile inland.
DOGS are not allowed in any portion of Rancho del Oso nor on Waddell State Beach.
DRONES are not allowed in the park. To protect wildlife and cultural resources, and for the safety and welfare of visitors and staff, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is closed to the use of Model Aircraft, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and Gliders in flight.
PROFESSIONAL/COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILMING requires a permit through the California Film Commission. For more information, please click here.
Do you enjoy nature and being outdoors? Do you feel a strong sense of giving to the community, promoting conservation and stewardship, and sharing knowledge with others? You can join our stewardship team and help connect park visitors to our natural and cultural resources. For more information, please click here.
Naturalist-led field trips at Rancho del Oso take participants on a journey through seven unique habitats within the historical Waddell Valley. This coastal portion of Big Basin Redwoods State Park offers scenic hiking trails of varying difficulty. This site is ideal for contrasting diverse ecosystems and focusing upon animal adaptations firsthand through observational inquiry.
The recently remodeled Nature Center offers interactive displays and provides a staging area for interpretive programs including beach exploration, birding along the Marsh Trail and landscape watercoloring lessons. We also focus upon cultural history, watersheds and identification of local plant and animal species. Our interpretive programs are congruent with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and can be tailored to specific academic curriculum for varying grade levels and learning goals. For more information, please click here.
Kids2Parks is an innovative park-equity program to bring students from Title 1 schools to State Park field trips. The program, a partnership between California State Parks and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, increases the number of students who have visited a state park or beach by reducing barriers to access. The program offers transportation funding for field trips to select Title 1 schools in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. For more information, and to apply please visit www.thatsmypark.org/visit/k2p/.