Our first California camping trip was to Big Basin Redwoods State Park which is about 1.5 hours north of Monterey, just about 40 minutes north of Santa Cruz. We made reservations on reserveamerica.com as soon as they became available 7 months in advance, and it looked like all the campgrounds were full when we were there. We were in the Wastahi Campground, which is walk in, but our site was right by the car and bathrooms. One of the trails through the park also ran along the back of our campsite, so it was by no means the most private site. However, we were camping among redwoods and it really didn't bother us.
We left after school on Friday and got there in plenty of time to set up camp before it got dark. We started a fire first thing and had nice hot coals cooking our Sausage and Veggies tin foil meals while we set up. They were delicious, and we ate by citronella candle-light. The site includes a fire ring and bear box, and they ask that you keep crumbs to a minimum because of some invasive bird species that thrive on unwatched and dropped food. It is also very buggy, but we covered ourselves in bug spray and barely got bit. If you have a screened in dining canopy, I would bring it!
The next day we packed a lunch and headed out for a hike. There are lots of trails of varying difficulty, so get advice from the park rangers. We headed out on a trail to see a waterfall, which could have been a full day loop trail, but I was not feeling well and we decided to turn around once we saw the waterfall. Be forewarned, you are hiking into a basin, not up a mountain, so the way back with be harder! The walk was beautiful with lots of big trees.
Dan needed to do some studying, so we headed back to our campsite in the afternoon and just hung out, reading and playing some games. If we had been looking for more to do, we could have done one of the many other easy trails around the park, or visited the small museum.
The following day we planned to stop and do a little exploring on the way home, so we packed up early and went for one last walk on the level, accessible path by the park headquarters, which takes you past the Mother and Father of the forest, and many other trees that are great for photos. We were up early, so we had the whole path to ourselves.
On the way home we had planned to stop in Santa Cruz to explore, but there was a race going on, and the streets were crowded and parking non-existent. So instead, we went to Capitola and had lunch in a place overlooking the water called the Paradise Beach Grill, which had a beautiful view, but the food was overpriced and mediocre.
I think we will go back again to Big Basin Redwoods. They have some tent cabins for the less adventurous, or for colder weather, and more trails we did not explore. If we were to go back, I think I would also like to take the Roaring Camp Railroads tour either into Santa Cruz, or maybe on a moonlight dinner party.
This is a great place to go that is not too far from Monterey, but has some great sights!
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