Butano State Park

With 40 miles of hiking trails through redwood forest and chaparral, Butano State Park is a great place to go backpacking, and its redwood-shaded campground has a following among car campers.

A little over an hour from Silicon Valley (30 minutes from Half Moon Bay), Butano State Park combines the best of many of the region’s more popular parks: lush redwoods, slimy banana slugs, scrubby manzanita...and it is convenient to the coast, but not so close as to be overwhelmed by beach crowds.

With 40 miles of trails, the park is on the smaller side; you can feel like you’ve seen most of it after a long day. The land surrounding Butano is a jumble of public and private property, and the park connects via trail or shared border with Big Basin, Portola Redwoods and Ano Nuevo state parks and has steadily been acquiring more acreage.

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Near the park’s only entrance, the Ben Ries campground has 20 drive-up sites and 18 walk-up sites, most of which are fairly secluded and well-shaded. The campground is closed seasonally, December through March, and typically books up well in advance. Butano also offers a large group campfire area and hosts summer educational programs. A strong docent program offers lots of guided walks throughout the year.

With eight sites, the backcountry Butano Trail Camp has pit toilets but no water source and is first-come, first-served. Overnight guests can self-register at the ranger station upon entering. Butano Trail Camp is about 5.5 miles from the parking area and requires a steady 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Like the main campground, the backcountry camp is closed Dec. 1-March 31.

On your drive (or bike ride!) to or from the park, join the cyclists, tourists and beach bums in the charming town of Pescadero, where you can grab a sandwich at the Pescadero Country Store or sip on a fantastic cup of single-drip coffee and browse locally made trinkets at Downtown Local. (The mochas are made with TCHO chocolate and there is a silent movie screening room tucked in the back corner.)

A GREAT PLACE TO: Head for a local one- or two-night backpacking trip or shred some singletrack on a trail run. Bikes and dogs are allowed only on fire roads.

FAIR WARNING: Butano lies in a fairly narrow canyon, and most of the trails are pretty steep.

YOUR MOM WOULD TELL YOU TO: Take those “Slippery When Wet” signs seriously! From the damp wooden bridges and numerous creek crossings to the narrow canyon-edge trails, there are plenty of opportunities to lose your footing. If camping here, bring layers; summertime fog can be cold.

IF YOU’RE LUCKY YOU’LL: Find the famous but unmarked Candelabra Tree.

—Kelsey Farabee

Butano State Park is a (secret) great place to camp. Follow this link and let our friends at Hipcamp hook you up.

1500 Cloverdale Rd, Pescadero, CA. 650.879.2040. Learn more at the official Butano State Park website. View a map of the Butano State Park area.

Directions to Park Headquarters: There is only one vehicle entrance to Butano. From Highway 1, turn onto Pescadero Creek Road. After passing the town, turn right onto Cloverdale Road. Coming from the North, the park entrance is on the left and well-signed.

Alternatively, take Gazos Creek Road from Highway 1 (across from Ano Nuevo State Park) and turn left on Cloverdale Road. The entrance is on the right.

Ano Nuevo Trail
3 miles; 600 feet elev. gain; moderate
A moderate three-mile hike in the redwoods with ocean glimpses.

Candelabra Tree Trail
4 miles out and back; moderate
Trek to a spectacular old redwood with five huge trunks

Butano Trail Camp
11 miles; 2200 ft climbing; strenuous
A haul up to the heights of the park to Butano's backcountry camp.