Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is California’s oldest state park. In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractions—literally—are its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, many babbling brooks, and a fascinating natural and cultural history.
A new chapter in Big Basin’s story began on August 18, 2020, when the CZU Lightning Complex Fire swept through 97% of the park’s property. The fire destroyed all historic structures and radically changed the landscape. The park now looks very different from how generations of visitors experienced it, but it is steadily recovering. Most of the old-growth redwood trees survived, new plant life is vigorously growing, and many animals have returned to the area. The Reimagining Big Basin project is managing the multi-year process of rebuilding park facilities and infrastructure.
Big Basin is still home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. Park vegetation consists of fire-impacted old-growth and second-growth redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet.
The park has a variety of habitats (from damp canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes), animals (deer, raccoons, bobcats) and bird life—including dark-eyed juncos, acorn woodpeckers, Steller’s jays, marbled murrelets, and fire-following lazuli buntings.
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