Easy Intro to Big Basin
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a pain to get to, but it remains very popular. I realize that a huge park in the cool redwoods is going to be quite crowded with temperatures in the 90s throughout much of the Bay Area. There must have been 1,000 cars there today. This is not only one of the most beautiful places in the region, but one of its busiest. The 18,000 acre park has 146 family campsites and countless picnic tables. However, Big Basin seems pretty wild once one travels away from the hubbub around the headquarters and campgrounds. Towering forests of redwood and Douglas fir shade most of this trip, but there are a few long range views. This is a great hike for those who don't feel the need to do the super-popular hikes involving Berry Creek Falls.
I've set the beginning of this hike as the park headquarters, but you will most assuredly be parking in a spot that isn't in the immediate vicinity. From the HQ walk northwest past the store and snack shop to a small bridge over Opal Creek. Take the signed Skyline To The Sea Trail left. You are already in a dense forest of mixed Douglas fir and redwood. The STTST heads west for 0.4 mile before going north for 0.5 mile to its intersection with the Middle Ridge Road. There's a metal trail map that looks to have been shot, and turn left for 50 yards until the Howard King Trail branches off to the right. You can also continue straight along the Middle Ridge fire road, and then turn right onto the Hinn Hammond fire road. Both Hinn Hammond and Howard King end up at McAbee Mountain, but Howard King is a little more interesting because it's a small trail while Hinn Hammond is a wide fire road. Both routes branch away from each other only to join for brief stretches between STTST and McAbee Mountain.
The best stretch is on the 1.2 mile stretch of the Howard King Trail east of McAbee Mountain. This section travels through mixed Douglas fir and redwood forest, open chaparral, and knobcone pine scrub forest. There are also about the only long range views of the entire hike. Pine Mountain looms beyond the deep East Waddell Creek drainage.
You can return the way you came or enjoy one of the many alternates to the route I took. The Howard King Trail continues north from McAbee Mountain 2.0 miles down to Berry Creek Falls. From Berry Creek Falls head east along the STTST back to the park HQ.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.