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Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California - the only site for complete, current park information

Hiking and Camping

Click here for information about guided hikes

Hiking on Your Own

Easy hiking:
Redwood Loop Trail
Maddock Cabin Site
Sequoia Trail

Moderate hiking:
Sequoia Trail

Strenuous hiking:
Berry Creek Falls

Other trails



Redwood Loop Trail

Redwood Loop Trail Map

What to see Redwood ring, the Mother of the Forest, the Father of the Forest, the Animal and Chimney trees, curly wood, Opal Creek, much more.

Trail head location Parking lot across from park headquarters at the large marker for the Redwood Trail .

Length 1/2 mile

Time 20 to 45 minutes

Elevation Level

Accessibility Easy, Wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Printed trail guides for a self-guided tour are available at park headquarters and the trailhead for $0.25. Guides are available in several languages at park headquarters. Click here for an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version of the guide (English). Click here to get Adobe's free Acrobat Reader.

Guided Walk

On this easy, level, half-mile walk you will learn astonishing facts about the ancient redwood environment and see the tallest, most rare, and most fascinating trees in the park. Park naturalists engage young and old alike with colorful park history, redwood reproduction, and animal stories as you explore the mysteries of the forest. Meet the Mother of the Forest, the Father of the Forest, the Animal and Chimney Trees, and more. Check at park headquarters for schedule. Don't miss these informative walks!

On Your Own

The Redwood Loop Trail is easily the most explored, and perhaps most celebrated, trail in Big Basin. While the trail lacks the physical challenge of a hike up the Pine Mountain Trail to Buzzard's Roost or the seclusion of the East Ridge and Hollow Tree trails, the Redwood Loop Trail boasts an exceptional beauty as well as a few unexpected surprises.

The Redwood Loop Trail showcases the tallest measured tree in the park and the two trees with the widest circumferences. Known as the Mother, Father, and Santa Clara Trees, these famous redwoods are among the most photographed trees in Big Basin. The easy accessibility of this half-mile, level trail allows park visitors an unobstructed view of the Mother and Father Tree, a wonderful view of the Santa Clara Tree (measuring in at 17 feet in diameter!), as well as many other interesting sites featured along the way.

Andrew P. Hill poses with the Mother of the Forest
Andrew P. Hill poses with the Mother of the Forest on the Redwood Loop Trail.

The Sempervirens Club with the Father of the Forest. Circa 1901
The Sempervirens Club with the Father of the Forest. Circa 1901.

Glimpse wavy wood--the preferred wood of lumber mill owners--up close! This genetic characteristic, which occurs in less than 1% of redwood trees, is similar to curly hair in people. The lumber barons sometimes refused to pay loggers for wavy wood, calling it "defective." Unable to sell the lumber and unwilling to haul it away, loggers were often forced to leave it behind as scrap wood. Thus, lumber mill owners enjoyed it all to themselves, adorning their private residences with this most rare and beautiful redwood.

curly wood
Look for the "curly wood" trees on the Redwood Loop Trail.
This harmless genetic condition is found in less than 1% of redwood trees.

As you amble along the Redwood Loop Trail, be sure to stop and visit the Chimney Tree. The tree's heartwood was consumed by fire many years ago, leaving a hollow but healthy tree in its wake. The Chimney Tree stands as a remarkable example of redwood resilience as well as a wonderful metaphor for renewal. Amazingly, it continues to heal itself. The outer layers of sapwood and bark are slowly fusing back together. Step inside and look up!

Other unique sites along the Redwood Loop Trail include the Animal Tree, where you can let your imagination run wild, and that was once the site of a luxurious pool and recreation center. In the 1950s, fearful that swimming pools were a cause of Polio transmission, the area was returned back to its natural state.

"Animal" or "Zoo" tree

The "Animal" or "Zoo" tree has been a favorite of children and adults alike for over
100 years. The "animals" are in fact the amazing burl system of this ancient giant.
The photograph above is from the 1930s.

Whether you're seeking a peaceful walk in an old-growth redwood forest, a quiet amble along an iridescent creek, or an intimate view of some of Big Basin's most celebrated trees, the Redwood Loop Trail has it all. Be sure to pick up a Redwood Loop Trail guide and make the trail your own!

Before and After

Swimming pool 1930s

The large open meadow on the Redwood Loop Trail was once the location of the park's
swimming pool. The area was returned to its natural setting in the 1940s and 50s.
The image above is from the 1930s.
The photograph below is the same meadow in 2002.

Swimming pool 2002

© Copyright 2009 Jonathan and Kelly Knowles