Bigger than you Think

Little Basin

Neil Wiley

Little Basinís 524 acres pales in comparison with its 18,000-acre neighbor, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but this private, hopefully soon-to-be public, park has lots to offer, including camping with less crowding, more comfort, and a wider selection of accommodations. Although there are less than ten miles of trail within the park, Little Basin has both moderate hikes and challenging climbs, including the Eagle Rock Trail that campers told me presented one of the best scenic views in Santa Cruz County. Also, a short walk takes you to Big Basinís eighty miles of trails, featuring the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, many lovely waterfalls, and walks to Waddell Creek beaches, Castle Rock State Park, and Long  Ridge Open Space.

Camping. Each campsite has a charcoal-burning barbecue grill, a table with benches, a food locker, and wood-burning fire pit. You can buy charcoal and firewood at Little Basin, and get other supplies next door at Big Basin.

Fifteen cabins are available, including two with wheelchair access. Cabins have two double-bed frames, a single-bed frame, a table, and a small storage shelf. Some cabins accommodate up to eight people.

The cabins are rustic. They donít have electricity or water, and no mattress or bedding is provided. Water is nearby, and the cabins do have door locks.

Thirty-one spaces accommodate two provided tents each. Seventeen spaces serve ten trailers. Twelve spaces satisfy motor homes 28-foot-long or less; five serve motor homes up to fifty feet in length.

Facilities include baseball fields, large running-water bathrooms with showers, volleyball court, basketball court, horseshoe pit, fishing reservoir, childrenís playground, conference center, picnic areas, parking terraces, large open meadows, and paved roads throughout the campground area for biking and roller blading.

A cabin costs $50 a day. A tent site is $25 a day. Day users pay $6 per vehicle. Overnight reservations add a $7.50 service charge.

Little Basin is not open to the general public, but you can enjoy this little paradise if you become a member of the Sempervirens Fund organization. An individual membership is $35. For more information on becoming a member, visit  For more information about Little Basin, visit

Background. In 2007, Hewlett-Packard transferred ownership of Little Basin to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and Sempervirens Fund for permanent resource protection and public recreation. These two organizations are maintaining the land until a public agency can assume ownership. In time, Little Basin should be added to the California State Parks system, but now you can enjoy this park and protect our local environment with a small donation.

My hike. Docents Howard Read and Kristin Hageseth led fifteen of us on a two-mile hike over Tanbark Loop Trail. The trail took us up and down relatively easy grades through redwoods, knob-cone pines, and mixed hardwood forest. Although we didnít see any old-growth redwoods, the mature trees were majestic and beautiful.

The wildflowers were out in force. Iíve never seen so many mountain irises and tiny two-eyed violets.

Although I still prefer my solitary hikes, the docents enriched our experience with their knowledge of local history, botany, and geology. We made many stops along the way to share the beauty, touch, and smells of the natural world.

Getting there. The shortest route for most of us is Bear Creek Road to Boulder Creek. At Highway 9, turn left toward Boulder Creek, then turn right on Highway 236 (Big Basin Way). Follow 236 for 6.4 miles, and then turn left on Little Basin Road. This last road is rough so drive slowly into the park. Allow an hour for the trip. (This route is 25 miles from my home off Summit Road to Little Basin.)

 A longer, less scenic route is on Highway 17 south to Mount Hermon, through Felton, and then up Highway 9 to Boulder Creek. (This route from my home to Little Basin is 31 miles.) Another option is to take Highway 9 up from Saratoga, across Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35), down to the northern end of Highway 236, and through Big Basin to Little Basin.

Camping at Little Basin could help you see more and hike longer with more comfort and without packing lots of heavy gear. It sounds like a good alternative.


My thanks to Len Smith for recommending Little Basin.


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