Summer in the Bay Area means the tourists and out-of-towners are coming. Muir Woods sits at the top of everyone’s bucket list of San Francisco must dos. With its groves of old growth redwoods, it’s hard not to see why. This NPS unit is family friendly and accessible for all.
However, access these days is getting more tough. Muir Woods now requires shuttle or parking reservations to reduce congestion on this small, impacted area. (Foot or bike traffic is not affected by this change.)
If redwoods are on your list, but reservation systems and crowds and boardwalks are not, I’ve compiled a list of redwood hikes in the Bay Area varying lengths and degrees of difficulty that are equally amazing or better than Muir Woods.
Read on for the full list of best redwood hikes in the Bay Area.
1. Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Redwood Loop Trail – .6 miles
The Redwood Loop trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the park’s biggest draw. At only .6 miles and similar to its Muir Woods counterpart, this well maintained and flat trail is accessible to all.
2. Heritage Grove, Sam McDonald County Park – 5 miles
Heritage Grove at Sam McDonald County Park is currently my favorite redwood hike in the Bay Area. Home to the oldest and tallest trees in the Santa Cruz mountains, this trail is packed with big trees from start to finish. Bonus: it’s less popular than nearby parks.
3. Dool-Middle Ridge-Meteor-Sequoia Loop, Big Basin Redwoods State Park – 6.1 miles
For those looking for a little more adventure at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the Dool-Middle Ridge-Meteor-Sequoia loop does not disappoint.
This loop takes you through lesser traveled terrain at this popular state park. The Meteor section of this trail is absolutely stunning.
4. Big Ben Loop, Fall Creek Unit, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park – 8 miles
The Big Ben Loop at Fall Creek Unit, Henry Cowell Redwood’s more remote arm, offers hiking up close and personal to old growth redwoods.
This trail takes you through a picturesque forest with babbling creeks and to the ruins of old limestone kilns.
5. Whittemore Gulch-Craig Britton-Purisima Creek Loop, Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve – 9.1 miles
This loop at Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve is one of my favorite weekend hikes. Wake up, hit the trail, back in town for a late lunch at one of Half Moon Bay’s many seafood restaurants.
It is primarily second growth trees, due to extensive logging on the California coast line, but the trails by the babbling creeks keep it interesting and beautiful. Make sure you get to Purisima Creek Road early. Parking here is sparse.
6. Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin Redwoods State Park – 10 miles
You can’t really go to Big Basin Redwoods without stopping by Berry Creek Falls at least once in your lifetime. After the Redwood loop, this is one of the most popular trails, traveling through redwood forest and three waterfalls.
Don’t be alarmed by the strenuous rating the park gives this trail. The first half to Berry Creek Falls is primarily downhill. The hike out is gradual.
7. Peters Creek Loop, Portola Redwoods State Park – 11.5 miles
The Peters Creek Loop is my second favorite redwood trail in the Bay Area. This 11.5 miler is a thigh burner, but it takes you to a remote grove of old growth redwoods.
Beware, this trail gets seriously overgrown with poison oak after a good rainy winter.
8. Sequoia Bayview Trail, Joaquin Miller Park – 2.8 miles
This 2.8 mile East Bay trail is popular. Its close proximity to Oakland makes it a prime spot for some quick dirt time. If you don’t have a car, this trailhead is accessible via Lyft and has cell service for nearly the whole hike. Don’t expect to be alone on this trail and watch out for mountain bikers careening around the corners.
9. Fern Canyon & Waterfall Loop, Russian Gulch State Park – 8 miles
Russian Gulch State Park is a ways north of the Bay Area, but a weekend escape to Mendocino is one that you won’t regret. Hike the magical Fern Canyon to experience a lush, redwood forest rebounding from logging days.
Don’t miss the upper half of the waterfall loop. It will not disappoint. Few people take this way back because it adds an extra two miles. You’ll have the redwoods all to yourselves.
Other notable redwood hikes in or near the Bay Area
Most of these trails are on the Peninsula or South Bay due to their proximity to where I live. I unfortunately do not make it out to the East Bay often, and I am also very guilty of not documenting many redwood trails that I have hiked in the past. Below is a list of spots that I’d be remiss not to include in this roundup.
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Sanborn-Skyline County Park
- Redwood Regional Preserve
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park
- Limekiln State Park
- Armstrong Redwoods State Park
What are your picks for the best redwood hikes that are not Muir Woods? Did I miss anything?
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