I’ve been winging it on plans lately. I seriously just don’t feel like planning anything. I realized a few weeks ago that my birthday was coming up. Last year, I backpacked in Zion. I’d taken the day off work, but aside from that there was nothing on the schedule.
The Sierra Club Hiker’s Hut in Sam McDonald County Park is a spot I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. It’s close enough for me to not want to spend a weekend there when I could be elsewhere. But for a quick overnighter for my birthday, it was perfect and did not disappoint.
The Sierra Club Hiker’s Hut, officially known as the Ollie Mayer Hiker’s Hut, is a small “backcountry” hut in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I say “backcountry” because the shortest route in is 1.5 miles. And there is a cell tower about a half mile away and full bars of LTE.
I’m not complaining though. Huts are amazing and make backpacking so easy. I love hut trips.
We arrived on Monday evening to start our hike into the park. The main parking lot was empty and we had the whole place to ourselves. We paid for parking, shouldered our packs, and ambled off into the woods.
There’s a few different ways that hikers can get to the hut. Because we’d arrived later in the day, we wanted to get to the Hiker’s Hut in time for sunset. We opted to take the Towne Fire Road for the most direct route possible.
The Towne Fire Road is wide and well graded. When we went, it was muddy and slick after our March Madness rains, but you could push a stroller or a wheelchair up this road if you wanted to.
Most of the trail is under tall redwoods, but after about .75 miles, the redwoods give way to oak trees and then to a meadow. When you reach the Jack Brooke Horse Camp area, you’re about .6 miles away from the hut.
The Sierra Club Hiker’s Hut sits perched on a hillside clearing with views over the forest to the Pacific Ocean. Composed of all wood, it fits in sympathetically with the surrounding oak trees and does not look out of place. It’s the kind of place you’d want to retire in. It is beautiful.
The Sierra Club sent easy instructions to unlock and enter the hut and outdoor bathrooms. A small wooden shed held all the firewood we could ever want for the wood burning stove inside the hut.
The hut is designed for communal gathering with a large loft area, a spacious dining table, and cozy living room.
The Hiker’s Hut sleeps up to ten people, although it will be a snug fit if you’re all full sized adults. A small bunk bed and two futons are available, otherwise you’re claiming downstairs floor space. Due to fire hazards, the loft is not available for sleeping.
Sleeping pads are provided. We chose to plant our butts in front of the entrance and wood burning stove.
The kitchen is modest, but functional. The Sierra Club asks that you prepare most food before you get to the hut to reduce use of the electric stove. For food, we brought easy to make items like Fishpeople Seafood pouches, pre-cooked bacon, and paleo pancakes.
If you need to store perishable food, a mini fridge is provided. If you made all of your food at home, a microwave and toaster are available for reheating your food. Cutlery, dinnerware, and cookware are provided for your convenience. Sponges, dish soap, and hand towels are also available at the hut.
At night, we stored all of our food in a large Tupperware bin to prevent mice from getting into it. We didn’t have any problems with mice at all, but there were lots of critters walking about outside at night. It was a little creepy.
There’s really good cell service at the hut, but if you’re looking for a quiet experience, put your phone on airplane mode. There’s tons of history in the hut itself, from clippings of the hut opening in the 90s to old guestbooks. If reading isn’t your thing, try your hand at Uno. I beat Josh 11-8.
Before leaving, we did have to clean up the Hiker’s Hut. Because the hut is run and maintained by volunteers, the Sierra Club asks that visitors help keep it in tip top condition.
We swept the floors, scrubbed the toilet that we used, vacuumed the carpets, scrubbed the counters and the tables and did all of our dishes. There’s also a form the Sierra Club asks you to fill out to help them gauge conditions and cleanliness of the hut.
On our way back to our car, we had much more time and decided to take the “long” way out through the Heritage Grove and the Big Tree Trail. The Heritage Grove trail begins about .1 miles away from the Hiker’s Hut.
These trails supposedly have the largest redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and should not be missed. Seriously. There are so. many. trees, and they are all beautiful.
On a drizzly Tuesday morning, we had the trail to ourselves and never saw another soul. The Heritage Grove and Big Tree Trails all connect back to Towne Fire Road.
The trails around Sam McDonald County Park are all very well signed and have numbers that correspond to trail junctions on the trail map. You’d have to try really hard to get lost.
Would I come back here again? Absolutely. This place was an absolute gem from getting here, to staying. It’s such an easy, family-friendly destination and a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area. My mom’s already asking to come. I have friends planning ladies’ trips here.
How to Book the Hiker’s Hut
The Ollie Mayer Hiker’s Hut is bookable 4 months in advance. The reservations calendar is available online. To book, email with the dates you are interested in. Once you get confirmation, mail in a check for the total amount.
The Hiker’s Hut sleeps 10 people.
How to Get to the Hiker’s Hut
The most direct way to the Hiker’s Hut is via the Towne Fire Road. This is about 1.5 miles long.
The most scenic way to the Hiker’s Hut is Towne Fire Road to Big Tree Trail to Heritage Grove Trail to the Hiker’s Trail Hut. This is about 3.7 miles to the hut and about 600-700 feet of elevation gain.
Cost of the Hiker’s Hut
Parking for Sam McDonald County Park: $6 per night
Saturday night only: $30 per person
Friday through Sunday: $25 per person per night
Monday through Thursday: $20 per person per night
The hut sleeps 10 people.
Discounts given for Sierra Club members.
Amenities at the Hiker’s Hut
- Sleeping pads
- Utensils, dinnerware, cookware
- Cleaning supplies
- Small first aid kit
- Wood burning stove
Packing List for the Hiker’s Hut
- Sleeping bag
- Easy to prepare
- More games