Big Tree Trail


A short but steep roadside trail looping through some of the park's most impressive trees.

1.2 miles RT; 300 feet of climbing; moderate

A quick loop between the ranger station and Jack Brook Horse Camp, the hikers-only Big Tree Trail is an excellent chance to enjoy the deep, tall woods at a strolling pace. The short length ensures plenty of time to stop and soak up the glory of the old-growth redwood sentinels sprouting out of the ground like mad experiments in beatific enormity. But the steep, uneven trail offers enough challenge to truly stretch your legs.

Find access points in either the southeast or northeast corner of the main Sam McDonald Park parking lot. Follow the informal trails found there and carefully cross Pescadero Road to reach the actual trailheads. The southern (uphill) end sets out on Towne Trail, jumping off onto a short single track after the first switchback to view one of the largest trees on the trail. After taking a good gander, loop back up to the Towne Trail and off again to hit the high point before rapping down to a lowland glade.

If you’re looking for a super lazy option, hit the southern (lower) Big Tree trailhead, which also accesses Heritage Grove. A big tree, another of the largest, welcomes guests right away. Stroll through the flat bottomland forest till you feel like turning around.

Taking less than an hour, the loop climbs steeply to an elevation of around 900 feet before rolling gently back down to the start.

— Words and photo by L. Clark Tate

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