Waddell Beach and the entrance to Big Basin Redwoods
State Park can be accessed by following SR-1 south from Half Moon Bay,
past Año Nuevo State Reserve. A few miles further on the right,
you'll find the parking lot to Waddell Beach. From the south, it is 15-20
miles north of Santa Cruz near the town of Davenport.
Waddell Beach is the local hangout for windsurfing. On
the day we visited, nobody was out on the water and there were just a few
people wandering the beach. Even though it seemed nearly deserted,
it's not difficult to fathom this place being packed. With hills
so green and ocean so blue, how could you not love to spend time in a California
version of Wisconsin's "god's country".
Across the highway is a fantastic state park with scenic
hiking, bike trails and camping. Theree's even an equestrian trail and camp
that allows riders to park their horses overnight and sleep in the woods.
Pretty cool! The beautiful wooded mountains and beach are a favorite haunt
for college students and residents of nearby Santa Cruz to the south and
San Francisco to the north. Six miles of a graded Canyon Road (which serves
as a dirt fire road) wanders along the course of Waddell Creek. It is nearly
level the entire length but does require decent bike tread to handle the
ruts and loose dirt found there. That six mile stretch is shared by bikers
and hikers but the cyclists drop off at the 6 mile mark and must walk the
remainder if they wish to continue hiking while pushing a bike. Trails
within the Redwoods Basin State Park include Redwood, Sequoia, Shadowbrook,
Creeping Forest, Door, Sunset, Hollow Tree and Howard King Trails
A series of Backpack Trail Camps are spaced along
the six mile trail, with three being located within easy hiking distance
from the Rancho del Oso park headquarters, located not far (under half
a mile) from Waddell Beach. A fee is charged and reservations often required
for camping space which, we were told, gets busy on most weekends. Serious
hikers enjoy this section of trail and beach as the end of the Skyline
To The Sea Trail which runs for 30 miles. Everyone recommends getting a
trail map. Check out the State Parks web site for information and hours
on getting a map. There's a ranger station on location where you can purchase
a map during certain hours but you might investigate the web site and see
if one's available there, as well.
During the late 1700's, this region was known as "Cañada
de la Salud" for its healthful effect for those camping for extended periods
of times there. William Waddell built a sawmill in the 1860’s and his name
has been around for over 140 years.
For those of us who don't camp too often, hotel rooms
range from beachside spots in Santa Cruz to the Ritz
Carlton - Half Moon Bay with its luxury appointments for the pampered
beast. Like all Ritz Carltons, they know their audience is into living
life to its fullest so they won't bat an eye if you wander in looking like you just hiked 30
From the State Parks:
Big Basin is California's oldest State Park, established
in 1902. Home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods
south of San Francisco, the park consists of over 18,000 acres of Old Growth
and recovering Redwood Forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and
riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000
feet. The climate ranges from foggy and damp near the ocean to sunny, warm
The park has over 80 miles of trails. Be sure and pick
up a map at park headquarters before your hike and take a look at the multimedia
kiosk in the Sempervirens Room (next to park headquarters). There you will
find great information, photos, and video of some of the most popular trails.
Some of these trails link Big Basin to Castle Rock State
Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range. The Skyline to the
Sea Trail threads its way through the park along Waddell Creek to the beach
and adjacent Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve, a freshwater marsh.
The park has a surprising number of waterfalls, a wide
variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered
slopes, many animals (deer, raccoons, an occasional bobcat) and lots of
bird life-- including Steller’s jays, egrets, herons and California woodpeckers.
Dogs are permitted in the campsites, picnic areas, and
on paved roads only. They must be on a leash and attended at all times.
Dogs ARE NOT permitted on any of the trails.
Visit the State Parks web site for current phone numbers
and reservations for camping and tent cabins.