Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Guide: Hiking, Off Roading, Slot Canyons & Camping

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park encapsulates a large portion of the land in Southern California east of San Diego. This massive park is relatively wild with not many paved roads to its main attractions and with unwinding heat during the summer. That being said, if you plan your time right, there are so many amazing experiences to be had in this small area. Here is my guide on some of the best locations.

Hikes

Like I mentioned above, Anza Borrego is a desert, and it is not something I recommend hiking in during the summer unless you are incredibly prepared. During the rest of the year though the cooler temperatures make this arid desert a great place to hike. Here are a few of my favorite hikes, many of which take you to special spots like slot canyons and a palm oasis.

The Slot

Borrego Palm Canyon

Hellhole Canyon

Off Roading

You can see a lot of great places in the park with a traditional car, but to really experience what it has to offer you need to have 4 wheel drive. Most of the park’s roads are dirt and while some are passable during certain times of year without 4×4, it is best to plan on needing it so you do not get stuck. Here are some amazing things you can see if you have a 4×4 vehicle

Font’s Point

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

Clark’s Dry Lake

Hollywood & Vine

Sculptures

One of the main attractions in the park that is easy for all cars to access is the sculptures of Galleta Meadows. These massive metal beasts are scattered all around the town of Borrego Springs and include dinosaurs, serpants, horses, elephants and a sloth, just to name a few. Click on the image below to read a post I wrote on visiting them.

Historic Sights

If you are into the historical markers that dot California’s landscape, then you will be really excited about how many of them are down here. That being said, most do not do more then mark the site of an old event or building, but a few have something more to look at. You can see two of the more interesting ones below.

Peg Leg Smith Monument

Palm Spring

Special Occasions

Anza Borrego has two things that really make it a magical place during certain times of the year.

Stargazing

The first is that it is a dark sky community, which means they limit light pollution. Because of this it is one of the best places in Southern California to see the stars and to photograph them as well. When I was there last you could easily see the milky way with your naked eye. Plan in advance for the darkest days of the month to come down here.

Wildflowers

The other attraction is the wildflower blooms that happen in the spring. The normally brown and dreary desert becomes a palette of colors during one short month and people descend on the park to see the blooms. If you happen to be here during a super bloom, you can see flowers as far as the eye can see in certain areas and it is magical time to be in the park.

Where to Stay

The town of Borrego Springs has a half dozen or so hotels, resorts, and RV parks. You can also camp at the large campground near the visitors center, or you can camp at many spots around the park as well. I personally like the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground as it has big roomy sites.

Borrego Pam Canyon Campground

Where to Eat

There are a few spots to eat in Borrego Springs, but if you are exploring out in the park then make sure to bring your own food as there are not really any options. For restaurants in Borrego Springs, here are my two favorites. Carlee’s is especially good for grabbing a drink while you are waiting for the stars to come out.

Kendall’s Cafe

Carlee’s Place

Videos

Here are two videos I made on my time exploring the islands. Please excuse the Anacapa video as it was from a long time ago 🙂

FAQ

Where do I get a map?

There are maps online but the best one is at the visitors center and it costs $2.



How much does it cost?

There is no fee to enter the park, other than the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. Hiking here costs $10.



How can I avoid the crowds?

Anza Borrego is not as popular as many of the other Southern California parks like Joshua Tree. Because of this, you will often find solitude on your hikes, especially if you pick some away from Borrego Springs. During wildflower blooms, it can be pretty busy though.

Now it is your turn, what did I leave off this list that you love exploring in Anza Borrego State Park? Be sure to leave them in the comments so that others can find them as well.

Font’s Point: Anza Borrego State Park’s Best View

Anza Borrego State Park, in Southern California, is a huge desert with countless adventures to be had. While I have by no means done everything, the view at Font’s Point in the parks northern section is one of the best views in all of Southern California. The way the ragged ridgelines bend out in front of you from this high vantage point is awe-inspiring, and something that everyone should see at least once in California. Here is all the information on how to get to this spot.

Details

  • 4-mile dirt road to drive
  • 4×4 strongly recommended
  • Best at sunrise or sunset

Getting There

From Christmas Circle in Anza Borrego, you will want to head out on S-22 for ten miles. Right after the 29-mile marker, you will see a dirt road on the right and a sign that says Font’s Point, 4 miles. This is where you will turn and start the off-roading to Font’s Point. I would not recommend doing this without 4 wheel drive, but it does depend on the year and road conditions. When I went, there were a lot of sandy spots which would be easy for 2WD cars to get stuck in. You can always call the park visitors center and ask for the current conditions.

The Road

When you turn off the main road onto the dirt, you will be following a wash most of the way. The road is wide, and there are not many markers, but since this is such a popular spot, you will be able to follow the tracks that are already there. There is one section with two paths; one has a sign that says foot traffic only, so you will want to take the section on the right. At the end of the drive there is a split as well, take the left spur, as most people exit from the lot to the road at the right.

When you get to the top, you will see a small parking lot at the end of the road.

Font’s Point

Font’s Point is on the other side of the low hills in front of the parking area. From the parking area, it is about a 5-minute walk to the viewpoint.

When you get to the edge you will be blown away by the view you have down into the craggy rocks and out to the Salton Sea.

The best time to see it is at sunrise as the sun rises in front of you. Sunset is great too as you get some nice colors but the sun sets behind you.

You can walk along the ridge and gets lots of views as you look out over the park.

I spent a good hour and a half here just watching the sun come up, and walking around to take it all in.

There are multiple information placards around the area so you can learn more about the park’s past as well.

Be sure to check this spot out if you have 4×4 and are spending some time in the park. It is one of those viewpoints you will not forget.

Font’s Point: Anza Borrego State Park’s Best View

Anza Borrego State Park, in Southern California, is a huge desert with countless adventures to be had. While I have by no means done everything, the view at Font’s Point in the parks northern section is one of the best views in all of Southern California. The way the ragged ridgelines bend out in front of you from this high vantage point is awe-inspiring, and something that everyone should see at least once in California. Here is all the information on how to get to this spot.

Details

  • 4-mile dirt road to drive
  • 4×4 strongly recommended
  • Best at sunrise or sunset

Getting There

From Christmas Circle in Anza Borrego, you will want to head out on S-22 for ten miles. Right after the 29-mile marker, you will see a dirt road on the right and a sign that says Font’s Point, 4 miles. This is where you will turn and start the off-roading to Font’s Point. I would not recommend doing this without 4 wheel drive, but it does depend on the year and road conditions. When I went, there were a lot of sandy spots which would be easy for 2WD cars to get stuck in. You can always call the park visitors center and ask for the current conditions.

The Road

When you turn off the main road onto the dirt, you will be following a wash most of the way. The road is wide, and there are not many markers, but since this is such a popular spot, you will be able to follow the tracks that are already there. There is one section with two paths; one has a sign that says foot traffic only, so you will want to take the section on the right. At the end of the drive there is a split as well, take the left spur, as most people exit from the lot to the road at the right.

When you get to the top, you will see a small parking lot at the end of the road.

Font’s Point

Font’s Point is on the other side of the low hills in front of the parking area. From the parking area, it is about a 5-minute walk to the viewpoint.

When you get to the edge you will be blown away by the view you have down into the craggy rocks and out to the Salton Sea.

The best time to see it is at sunrise as the sun rises in front of you. Sunset is great too as you get some nice colors but the sun sets behind you.

You can walk along the ridge and gets lots of views as you look out over the park.

I spent a good hour and a half here just watching the sun come up, and walking around to take it all in.

There are multiple information placards around the area so you can learn more about the park’s past as well.

Be sure to check this spot out if you have 4×4 and are spending some time in the park. It is one of those viewpoints you will not forget.

Red Rock Canyon State Park: Hiking, Camping, Rock Formations & Wildflowers

Red Rock Canyon State Park in Southern California is one of the most beautiful and overlooked state parks in the system. When you try to find out information online about it, you will not see much; but when you show up and see the massive red rock formations, that are unlike any others in California, you will be happy that you made the drive. This is also a great state park for some easy hiking, camping and for seeing wildflowers in the spring.  I have only been once for a short time, but here is all the information I collected on it.

Details

Getting There

I am sure one of the main reasons it is not that busy is because it is pretty out of the way. At about 120 miles from Los Angeles, it is not one of those parks you just stumble on. Highway 14 goes right through the middle of it though, and that is the main road from Los Angeles to Mammoth, so if you have driven that, then chances are you have seen this park.

History

Red Rock Canyon State Park was home to the Kawaiisu Indians for most of its history. It eventually became a favorite spot for the 20-mule teams that were mining the area, and who used it as a good meeting point due to the distinct rock formations. Parts of the park also became privately owned, including the Hagen Canyon area which was owned by Rudolph Hagen. He acquired the land through mining claims and at one point in time it even had a bar built on it. He also named many of the areas famous formations, before it eventually became a state park in 1969.

Famous Formations

Turk’s Turban

Camel Rock

Hiking

The only hike I got a chance to do was through Hagen Canyon. This two-mile hike is flat and on a well laid out path. It takes you all around the inner portions of the canyon, letting you see a lot of different rock formations along the way. It is an excellent introduction to the park, and you can see wildflowers here as well.

Wildflowers

Depending on the year, Red Rock Canyon can be a great place to see wildflowers in the spring. The area in the back portion of Hagen Canyon often has a sea of yellow, with purple flowers interspersed along the way. Just taking this two-mile hike will give you many different glimpses of the flowers, as well as the unique rock formations.

Movie’s Filmed Here

Since the landscape is so unlike other parts of California, and since it is so close to Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon State Park has been a popular filming location over the years. Of course many westerns were filmed here, but it also became Montana for a few scenes in the original Jurrasic Park.

So there you have it, my short guide to Red Rock Canyon State Park. I have only been once, but I am really excited to go again and I would encourage you to do the same. Let me know what other spots I should explore in the comments.

Mount Tamalpais: Verna Dunshee Trail & Fire Lookout from East Peak

Mount Tamalpais is one of the tallest mountains in the San Francisco area, and it provides fantastic opportunities to view the surrounding region from above. It is also a favorite for photographers at the end of the summer as it is where you can get those fantastic views of the fog rolling in from above. The mountain itself is easy to access, as you can drive nearly all the way to the top. Once you get there, a few short trails take you up and around the mountain. Here is all the information so you can do it yourself.

mt-tam-8

Details

  • .7 miles for the Verna Dunshee Trail
  • .3 for the fire lookout, plus 200 feet of elevation gain
  • Cost: $8
  • Location: Mt Tamalpais, California 94941

Getting There

East Mt Tam is located about 45 minutes North of San Francisco. You can just put it into Google Maps, and it will take you right to it. The roads getting there are windy and slow going though so be sure to take your time. The top has about two dozen spots to park at, and I haven’t been when it is full.

On the way up, there is a turn off right when you crest the hill. I recommend you take this and cross the street to walk the path next to the road. It is absolutely stunning, and I was blown away by how pretty everything was.

mt-tam-20

After this, head on up to the parking lot for East Mt Tam. West Mt Tam is the one with the observatory on it, which you will pass to get to East Mt Tam. After parking, be sure to pay your $8, exact change is needed as you fill out the envelope yourself. If you go when the small visitors center is open, then you can check it out, but it was closed when I was there, so I set out on the Verna Dunshee Trail first.

Verna Dunshee Trail

mt-tam-1

This .7 mile trail is relatively flat, and it takes you around the circumference of the mountain. I highly recommend it as the views on a clear day are spectacular.  I set out along the trail counter clockwise.

mt-tam-2

The trail goes past the remains of the old railroad which used to go all the way up the mountain. There are plaques here that talk about it, and if you are here on the weekend, you can go inside. 

mt-tam-3

From here the trail starts heading around the mountain, with the first view being down towards the lake to your left.

mt-tam-4

The trail has lots of benches for you to sit at as you go around, and you will want to take advantage of these as the views are excellent. Heading around the front, you will now be looking down on San Quentin and the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge.

mt-tam-6

Going further around you will get your first glimpse of the city of San Francisco off in the distance. I was stoked that the weather was beautiful as it was fun to be able to see the city.

mt-tam-5

The path then splits off to an overlook that is about 400 feet in front of you. You can do it if you want, but the overlook you are heading towards on the main path is just as great.

mt-tam-9

After cross over a small bridge, you will reach the overlook with its pipe fencing, and this is where I busted out my zoom lens and took a bunch of photos.

mt-tam-10

If you have binoculars or a zoom lens you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge from this vantage point, which is a lot of fun.

mt-tam-19

mt-tam-18

After soaking it all in you can continue along the mountain and get back to where you started on the trail. From here, start the .3 miles up to the fire lookout if you are feeling up to it.

Fire Lookout

mt-tam-13

While this trail is short, you will be gaining elevation so it isn’t as easy as you would expect. Also, the rocks are very uneven at the end, so it takes a little longer to maneuver them.

mt-tam-14

This trail starts by heading up on a series of steps where you can see the end goal of the lookout in front of you. It then bends and goes around the mountain through a shaded section.

mt-tam-15

Next, there are a few small switchbacks with uneven rocks that you need to maneuver past. From there you are at the base of the fire lookout.

mt-tam-17

Heading up to the door, you can see a small plaque that tells when it was dedicated, as well as video cameras and barbed wire to try and keep you out. I walked around the lookout to see it from all angles, but it was basically the same view the entire time. After taking it all in I headed back down the hill to my car.

mt-tam-16

Mount Tamalpais State Park is an excellent place to explore close to San Francisco. It is far enough away from the city to avoid the crowds, and it provides fantastic views and adventures to be had. Be sure to check it out if you are in the area.

Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park

Located in the town of Weaverville, about an hour outside of Redding, Joss House State Historic Park is a fascinating stop if you happen to find yourself in this area. The history of this unique temple and how well it has been preserved made it much more enjoyable than I even anticipated it being. It really is a highlight in the historic state parks of California. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

weaverville-joss-house-11

Details

  • Cost: $4
  • Hours: Thursday – Sunday – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Location: 630 Main St, Weaverville, CA 96093

Getting There

weaverville-joss-house-16

This state park is located in the town of Weaverville at the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 299. It is pretty remote and not something you would stumble on. I went when I was heading over to the coast from Redding so if you are doing that then be sure to stop by. You can’t miss it when you get to the town as it is on the left right in the downtown area. There is a decent sized parking lot as well.

History

weaverville-joss-house-15

This Taoist Temple, known as the “Temple among the trees beneath the clouds,” started its construction in the early 1850’s. Most of the pieces were from the 1850’s – 1870’s and they were shipped into San Francisco from China. The temple as it stands today was completed in 1873 as it was burnt a couple of times before that. It was eventually gifted to the state for preservation in 1956 by the Lee family, who now maintains it as a historic spot in California.

The Tour

weaverville-joss-house-13

I arrived just at the start of a tour and paid my $4 so I could hop on it. There were only two other people with me on the tour but the docent that lead it was fantastic and answered a lot of questions. You can see the temple exterior without a tour but if you want to go inside that is only possible on a guided tour.

weaverville-joss-house-14

The tour started at the visitors center which has a few fun items from Chinese history. I really liked the old dragon that they have sitting in the center glass.

weaverville-joss-house-12

From there it heads over the bridge and to the temple.

The Temple

weaverville-joss-house-10

The temple is impressive from the outside as it has lots of pastel colors which you would not expect to see in an area like this.

weaverville-joss-house-9

Walking into the interior takes you over a series of raised steps and around a large door in the middle of the walkway that doesn’t open. The reasoning for this is that they don’t believe that evil spirits can walk around doors or over steps like this, so it keeps them out.

weaverville-joss-house-7

The interior of the temple is beautiful in the way it spotlights the artifacts and pieces on display. It is still used on and off as a temple, so that is why there is so much to see.

weaverville-joss-house-3

The tour guide let us sit in here and walk around to look at the differ pieces while he told us the history and answered tons of questions.

weaverville-joss-house-1

I was overwhelmed trying to find the best spots for pictures as there’s so much to look at in this unique area.

weaverville-joss-house-4

On the left, there are mirrors that each represent a season.

weaverville-joss-house-8

On the right, there is an old bell that they ring for special occasions.

weaverville-joss-house-2

In the middle is where all the offerings and artifacts sit.

weaverville-joss-house-6

After looking around and asking questions, the tour ended and we exited the temple. It was a unique state park and one that I highly recommend if you are driving through the area. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

Jack London State Historic Park: Wolf House, the Cottage, Silos & Museum

If you are looking for a place to hike and explore in the Sonoma Valley, then head over to the beautiful Jack London State Historic Park. Built on the property owned by the famous author, this park has miles of trails, lots of historic structures and tons to explore. Here is all the information on the places I visited in the park, which include the Wolf House (historic mansion that burned down), the silos, the museum, the cottage and the pig palace. Check it out below.

jack-london-state-historic-park-11

Details

  • $10 to enter
  • 1.2 miles round trip to the Wolf House and grave
  • 1 mile round trip to the cottage and silos

Getting There

jack-london-state-historic-park-1

Jack London State Historic Park is located off Arnold Drive in the town of Glen Ellen, right in the Sonoma Valley. As you get closer to the town, you will see the signs for the state park off to the left, and after a 2-mile windy road, you will be at the entrance to the park. After paying the fee, there are two parking lots, one that goes to the Wolf House and museum while the other goes to the cottage and silos. I went to Wolf House first then the cottage after.

Video

The Museum

jack-london-state-historic-park-2

After parking in the south parking lot, head up the short, tenth of a mile trail to the beautiful stone building that is now the museum. The museum was built by Charmain London as a memorial to her husband’s life and work.

jack-london-state-historic-park-3

This building has loads of information the Londons, including first additions of his books, a movie about their life and two floors of exhibits. I was interested in the layout of the Wolf House that he planned to build since that is where we were hiking next. It is amazing to see what the property would have looked like.

jack-london-state-historic-park-5

The room dedicated to his fateful attempt around the world (which ended after 20 months, instead of the planned seven years) was especially enlightening, and I appreciated the adventurous spirit Jack London had.

jack-london-state-historic-park-4

Going upstairs leads to more exhibits on his life and adventures, complete with pieces he picked up around the world on his travels. If you go on the weekends they have a docent there who will be playing the piano he had from 1909.

Wolf House Trail

jack-london-state-historic-park-6

After visiting the museum, connect with the .6 mile trail to the Wolf House. This trail takes you through shaded trees, past poison oak and up and over rolling hills. It is a beautiful trail with amazing opportunities for photos as you go along.

jack-london-state-historic-park-7

The trail eventually reaches a split that goes to the Wolf House and Jack London’s grave site.

Jack London’s Grave

jack-london-state-historic-park-8

The short tenth of a mile split takes you up a hill to the final resting place of Jack London.

jack-london-state-historic-park-9

There is a sign that talks about how he wanted to be buried at the top of the hill with a rock put over him from the house. That is exactly what his wife did, and you can see the rock and his grave site here.

Wolf House

jack-london-state-historic-park-10

Proceeding on, the trail will take you back down the small hill and on to the Wolf House. In about two-tenths of a mile, the house will come into view right next to a small redwood grove.

jack-london-state-historic-park-16

The house burned down in 1913 from a fire that no one knows what started it, only months before they planned to move in. The house had cost over $75,000 to make, and so it was a huge loss to have it burn down like this.

jack-london-state-historic-park-15

The ruins themselves are quite impressive with all of the stone for the fireplaces and some of the walls still in place. You can walk all around it but can’t go in since it is unsafe.

jack-london-state-historic-park-13

On the backside, there is a small overlook that you can climb the stairs to and that takes you up to a view down into the house’s ruins.

jack-london-state-historic-park-14

This area is excellent as it has maps and floor plans for you to see at as you look out over the house.

jack-london-state-historic-park-12

After taking it all in, head back on the trail you came to the parking lot.

jack-london-state-historic-park-18

From here drive your car the short distance to the upper parking lot which has the cottage, silos and pig palace. All of these stops are worth the visit as well.

Trail to Cottage, Winery, Silos

jack-london-state-historic-park-19

The trail from the parking lot is about .3 miles to get to the cottage. Along the way, you will go past different pieces of the ranch that are still standing today.

jack-london-state-historic-park-20

You can even see the building he created just to keep the manure of his favorite horses for fertilization around the property.

The Cottage

jack-london-state-historic-park-22

The cottage itself is where the London’s lived and where Jack wrote many of his books. It is also where the guests stayed when they came and visited. The cottage is open most days till four but when we went it was closed so I didn’t get to see inside of it.

jack-london-state-historic-park-23

Below the cottage is the walls which remain of the old winery that they had on the property.

jack-london-state-historic-park-24

Heading on you can walk the back trail which takes you around the bend and has you walking along a dirt path with beautiful vines on one side of you. The trail leads to the old silos and the pig palace. The grapes in front of you are part of a private vineyard now.

The Silos

jack-london-state-historic-park-25

The silos were one of my favorite parts of this trail as they were pretty cool for photographs. They have no real purpose now, but they are still in great shape and have stone walls that lead them up to about 35 feet in the air.

jack-london-state-historic-park-26

We walked all around them and enjoyed seeing the light shine through the middle.

Pig Palace

jack-london-state-historic-park-27

The next spot you will reach is the pig palace. Jack London designed and built this unique structure in 1915. It had 17 pens and was an example of the best sanitation practices during the early 1900’s. Each of the pigs had their own pen, in what looked like a typical zoo set up.

jack-london-state-historic-park-28

It was interesting to see what he created here and how well it has been kept up. After checking out the Pig Palace, you can head back out on the small single track nearby to the parking lot.

All in all, this is a fantastic state park to visit in California. It is full of beautiful and historic spots all only a small hike from the parking lots. I plan to come back and explore more in the future. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

Big Basin State Park: Hiking Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls & Golden Cascade Falls

In California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the Sunset / Sky to Sea Loop is one of the park’s most popular spots to hike. This hike is not for the faint of heart through as it is around 11 miles and it gains almost 2,000 feet during that time. On the trail, you will see redwoods, banana slugs, and three waterfalls though so it is worth getting tired to experience something this unique. Here is all the information.

big basin waterfall loop-1

Details

  • $10 to enter the park
  • 11 miles, .6 more if you do the Redwood Grove as well
  • 1,900 feet of elevation gain
  • Bring at least 2-3 liters of water as you will go through a lot.

Getting There

The trailhead for this hike is located directly across the road from the Visitor’s Center. After arriving at the center, you can park in the lot across the street then head over to the center itself to pay your fee. There is a parking lot that can fit around 50 cars, but it can fill up on busy summer weekends.

The Trail

big basin waterfall loop-6

Since the trail is a loop, you can do it either clockwise or counter-clockwise. I asked the ranger what they recommended, and they said counter-clockwise since it spaces out the hiking. Doing it this way does make your last 4 miles of hiking pretty much a constant uphill though. Regardless, I took their advice and headed out on the counter-clockwise trail.

The trail is relatively easy to follow but do talk to the ranger before you go as there are a few splits that you need to navigate. You can also download my GPS trail here if you want to follow along that way. I am not going to talk about the idiosyncrasies of how to follow the trail as the GPS above should help you with it, but here is what to expect on the trail instead.

Also, I recommend hitting the Redwood Grove before you start as it is flat and only .6 miles, you won’t want to do it when you come back, and it has some amazing trees, so it is worth your time. Here is my post on that trail.

big basin waterfall loop-2

After crossing the small creek and starting the trail, you will head right and follow the signs for the Sunset Trail.

big basin waterfall loop-4

The trail starts going up almost immediately and you will be going uphill for most of the first mile before it flattens out, and you enjoy a nice section of downhill. Do note that most of the trail is rolling though, so there is a lot of up and down on this trail.

big basin waterfall loop-3

This section is well shaded and has a lot of beautiful and large trees.

big basin waterfall loop-5

There are also a lot of bridges that are there to provide safety over water crossings but this late in the season there was not much water to cross.

big basin waterfall loop-8

The next section is relatively fast paced since it is downhill. I was chugging along so I did stop a lot to take photos. I also didn’t see anyone for most of the trail.

big basin waterfall loop-12

At around 3.5 miles there is a good large rest spot with lots of logs if you have a group and want to make use of it.

big basin waterfall loop-9

Also, note that you need to take a hard right to stay on Sunset at the intersection with Tims Creek Trail, I almost missed this, and it would have been sad to go the wrong way.

big basin waterfall loop-14

Here are a few more photos for this part of the trail.

big basin waterfall loop-16

After exiting the forest for a bit and then heading back into it, you will start to hear the rushing water that designates the first set of falls, Golden Cascade.

big basin waterfall loop-17

Golden Cascade Falls

big basin waterfall loop-18

Golden Cascades may have been my favorite of the waterfalls as it is the most unique. The rocks are smooth and have a yellow/orange hue that makes them stick out and provides amazing photos.

big basin waterfall loop-20

There are three levels of these falls, and the top was my favorite, but the middle is the most like a cascade with multiple levels for the water to flow over.

big basin waterfall loop-21

The bottom is a 10-foot waterfall that drops into a pool. It is pretty but has nothing on the the other two.

big basin waterfall loop-23

After passing Golden Cascade, you will quickly be at the top of Silver Falls.

big basin waterfall loop-24

This part is a little sketchy as there are rudimentary steps carved into the rock and a small chain you can hold that keeps you from slipping off of Silver Falls. I liked it as it got my blood running a little bit.

Silver Falls

big basin waterfall loop-25

Silver Falls is amazing, but it is my least favorite of the three. As you walk down the stairs, you will get better and better views of the falls. There was a short dirt trail that got me closer, but there was someone sitting on the large downed tree, so it was hard to get a good photo.

big basin waterfall loop-26

I only spent 5 minutes or so here before heading on. The trail from here is about 3/4ths of a mile to Berry Creek Falls, the main draw in the park.

big basin waterfall loop-27

It is a beautiful trail as it follows the creek and has lots of large trees on both sides. I kept taking pictures here as well, and I probably have way too many photos of this area, but it was just so majestic.

big basin waterfall loop-28

Eventually, you will make it to the top of Berry Creek Falls, much like you did with Silver Falls. There is a trail that takes you down to the right and drops about 75 feet to the observation deck for the falls.

Berry Creek Falls

big basin waterfall loop-29

Berry Creek Falls is one of, if not the most popular spots in the park. When I was there, it was incredibly busy, so it was hard to grab a spot to see the falls. There is a bench you can sit on though, and I sat there to eat my sandwich and wait for a turn to photograph the falls. Eventually, people left, and I took this 360-degree photo you can see below.

I wanted to get closer to the falls but was told by the ranger that it was off limits so I didn’t.

big basin waterfall loop-30

After hanging out for about 30 minutes, I started my ascent back up the trail. You are technically only 4 miles from the parking lot here, but it is 4 miles which is pretty much 100% uphill.

big basin waterfall loop-31

What makes it nice though is that the area is beautiful with lots of creeks, massive trees, and even a few banana slugs if you keep your eyes peeled.

big basin waterfall loop-32

I was hoping to see a banana slug, so I was looking all over for them and finally stumbled on one. It was awesome to see, and I think they are one of my favorite creatures now. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and passed a half dozen or so people on the trail that were complaining about what they got themselves into.

big basin waterfall loop-33

Remember to note that this is not an easy hike, so if you are making the trek then take lots of water and give yourself a lot of time to complete it. After finally rounding out the last hill I was excited for the final 3/4ths of a mile downhill. There were a bunch of awesome downed redwoods at the end which made me wish that I was more energetic to take photos of them.

big basin waterfall loop-34

After connecting with the first trail, I was finally back at the visitors center and my car. I really loved my time in Big Basin, and even though the trail is hard, it is beautiful, shaded, and has a bunch of waterfalls. I am going to be sore tomorrow, but it is the soreness that comes from knowing you accomplished something awesome.

Let me know what you think in the comments and be sure to check it out if you are in the area.

Redwood Grove Trail in Big Basin State Park

The Redwood Grove Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park is only six-tenths of a mile, and it passes some of the largest redwoods in the entire park. The trail is flat and is readily available from the parking lot near the visitors center. If you are looking for a quick taste of the park, then this is a great way to get an understanding of the beauty that it holds. Here is all the info.

redwood grove big basin-1

Details

  • $10 to enter the park
  • .6 miles
  • No elevation gain
  • Maps of the grove available for $.25
  • Time Needed: 30 minutes

Getting There

redwood grove big basin-2

The trailhead for the Redwoods Grove Trail is located directly across from the visitors center, near the parking lot you will park at for this trail and the Berry Creek Falls Trail.

The Trail

redwood grove big basin-3

After heading getting to the trailhead, I would recommend paying a quarter and picking up a map of the grove, so you know what you are looking at. There are a lot of trees, and most don’t have signs so you may walk by something awesome without it.

redwood grove big basin-4

I walked through the area at a leisurely pace and took a decent amount of pictures since the light was coming in really nice.

redwood grove big basin-7

I did the trail in reverse, so one of the first things I saw was the Mother of the Forest Tree.

redwood grove big basin-6

This tree was once the tallest in Big Basin at 329 feet, but the top broke in a storm, and now it is 293 feet. It is a site to behold in the park.

redwood grove big basin-10

The next tree I saw was the Father of the Forest Tree.

redwood grove big basin-11

This tree is estimated to be over 2,000 years old, and it was one of the main trees that people used to start the movement to save the park. I love this tree’s history and that people stood up and saved these beautiful places for future generations. The tree is pretty impressive to see in real life as well.

Chimney Tree

redwood grove big basin-14

This tree appears to be dead and hollow, but it is actually still living. It has survived fires and lightning to be still going to this day. You can look up from inside of it.

Zoo Tree

redwood grove big basin-15

This was one of my favorites, as this tree had a massive burl at the bottom of it. It was one of the bigger burls I have seen, and it protrudes directly from the base. It is called the Zoo Tree because people think different parts of the burl look like animals.

redwood grove big basin-5

These are just a few of the spots you will see on this hike; I don’t want to spoil it all. It is an excellent way to get a taste of the park and is short enough for the whole family to enjoy. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Castle Rock State Park: Hiking to Castle Rock & Castle Rock Falls

Located in the hills above San Jose, Castle Rock State Park is the lesser known of the three state parks in the area, but it is still very unique and worthy of a visit. This park is popular with climbers, and you will see why when you walk around and view all of the massive rocks with top rope and scrambling options available. Here is all the information on a short hike that takes you to both Castle Rock and the Castle Rock Falls Overlook.

castle rock state park-5

Details

  • 1.5 miles
  • 200 feet of elevation gain
  • Cost: $8
  • Takes about an hour

Getting There

Castle Rock State Park is off Highway 35, a few miles from where you leave Highway 9. There is a small parking lot that holds about 30 cars, and it costs $8 to park. There is free parking on the road if it is available but I am always a fan of supporting the parks so I would recommend paying the small fee as it helps to maintain this place.

The Trail

castle rock state park-1

From the parking lot, you will set out on the Castle Rock Trail. If you just want to see Castle Rock and not the falls, then it is only a quarter mile hike each way.

castle rock state park-2

The trail is mostly shaded, and it is slightly uphill all the way to the rock.

castle rock state park-3

It is easy to follow, and it is pretty with the trees and moss all around you.

castle rock state park-4

When you reach the top of the small hill, the trail will dump you on a dirt road and will instruct you to go right. From here there are a bunch of different rocks, and I was confused as to what Castle Rock was.

castle rock state park-6

I kept walking, and there was never a sign I saw for the rock, but when the trial turned left, I figured the large rock next to me had to be it.

castle rock state park-7

I confirmed this with a man who was teaching his son how to climb on this very rock and so I started exploring it.

castle rock state park-8

The rock was massive and really cool. There were sections with huge caves cut out of them, and I was impressed by how unique it was.

castle rock state park-11

I explored for a good 15 minutes just making my way around the rock so that I could take it all in. I would like to come back and do some climbing here myself as I bet the view from the top is great as well.

castle rock state park-9

After exploring the rock, I went back to the trail and followed it down to the Saratoga Gap.

castle rock state park-12

The trail is a little hard to follow as there are many dirt offshoots from people who have taken their own way on the path. I tried to stay on the most trodden part and eventually made it to the sign for the Saratoga Gap trail after winding around for about 10 minutes.

castle rock state park-13

From here the trail heads left, and it is all downhill to the waterfall overlook.

castle rock state park-16

It is pretty here as it parallels a small creek and provides excellent views through the trees.

castle rock state park-15

Eventually the trail cross a small bridge and about a tenth of a mile later you are at the overlook.

Castle Rock Falls

castle rock state park-18

The waterfall here was pretty underwhelming as I had no idea what it would look like before setting out. You can see the trickle in the middle of the above photo.

castle rock state park-17

There was water late in the season but it was more of a trickle, and the overlook itself makes it hard to see where the falls are eventually hitting.

castle rock state park-19

I will say that the view was beautiful though as it looks out over the mountains. I didn’t stay here very long though, and since I was catching a flight, I just made the hike back instead of continuing to Goat Rock. I hear Goat Rock is even better than Castle Rock so consider checking it out of you visit the park.

All in all, this park was surprising in that I enjoyed more than I thought I would, and I highly recommend checking out Castle Rock. The waterfall is pretty skippable though unless you go after a big rain. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you have visited some of the other spots in the park as I would love to hear how they are.