This popular hike features an unrelenting 1.8-mile-long climb to a commanding viewpoint over the eastern half of Big Basin. Because the climb has a reasonable 12% average grade, it’s not quite as difficult as it might look from the elevation profile.
About half of this hike passes through old-growth redwoods. As the trail climbs, it passes first through impressive lowland redwoods, then smaller upland redwoods, and finally into a highland pine forest, making for an interesting and varied hike.
Start at the 12-foot-tall Redwood Loop signpost across the street from park headquarters. Walk into the woods and almost immediately turn left at the first intersection with the Redwood Loop. When the trail divides at the Mother of the Forest tree, stay to the left. The trail runs alongside Big Basin Road among impressive redwoods. The first paved road that the trail crosses is Hinh Hammond Road, which also serves as the entrance to Blooms Creek Campground. Turn right onto Hinh Hammond Road and walk through the campground.
Take the first trail to your left and cross a footbridge. Following the signs to Pine Mountain, turn right onto the Blooms Creek Trail, then left onto the Pine Mountain Trail, at which point the trail begins to climb in earnest.
The trail passes through a small ravine, crosses the East Ridge Trail, then contours around a larger ravine with some good-sized lowland redwoods. You then enter typical Big Basin redwood uplands: the environment gets noticably drier and the redwoods smaller, although there’s still the occasional big redwood.
After a switchback, the trail briefly joins the Pine Mountain Service Road. The redwoods continue for some time, but the trail eventually enters an area of logged redwoods. The transition from old growth to second growth marks the original 1902 park boundary. Fortunately, the logged stretch of redwoods is very short and the trail soon enters a tanoak forest, which in turn gives way to pine. The trail gets rockier and the trees get progressively smaller as you climb.
There are two small rock faces to climb up, the first about three feet tall, the second about six feet. The trail is screened by trees throughout, but near the top are some encouraging glimpses of the view over Big Basin. There’s a final switchback and then the trail arrives at Buzzard’s Roost, a rock formation that stands in a grove of dwarf pine trees. The final 50 yards or so is a climb up a bare rock face. It’s not particularly challenging, but it would be a long roll to the bottom for anyone who lost their footing. Fortunately, the rock face is normally clean and dry and traction good.
The view from the top is partially blocked by pine trees. Middle Ridge is clearly visible in front of you; park headquarters, at the base of the mountain, is hidden by the trees. On still winter days the rushing sound of Last Chance Creek emanates from far below.
For variety, on the way back turn left onto the East Ridge Trail. At the intersection with Hinh Hammond Road, cross the two auto bridges and then turn right onto the Skyline-Hinh Hammond Connector. This trail doesn’t look very promising at first, passing by some unattractive pipeline service hatches, but it soon enters a superb redwood grove and winds among huge trees, with views of more huge trees (actually the Redwood Loop area) across the creek.
Turn right at the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. Look for the huge, unmarked Santa Clara Tree to your right. Turn right again at the large footbridge to return to the parking lot.
© 2006, 2012, 2013, 2017 David Baselt