Overnight stay in Redwoods near San Jose
July 11, 2014 6:40 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are headed to California in August and have 2 days to ourselves. We're both very avid hikers and are interested in seeing redwoods. Help us plan an awesome 2 day hike between San Jose/Sonoma!

We land Wednesday night in San Jose airport, and have to be in Sonoma Saturday early morning for a family all day evening and depart from SFO at 1:30pm Sunday. All of this is in early August.

The tentative plan I had is:
Land in SJ, spend a night with friends who live close to airport.
Thursday morning: drive to Big Basin, hike, spend the night at ... ?
Friday morning: another hike? ... and drive to Sonoma.

We're flying from Toronto (with a layover on the way in) and therefore I'd like not to haul camping gear (or check any bags), but we're both very comfortable with nature and in generally good shape. I checked Big Basin Tent Cabins (which sound perfect!) but I think they are fully booked, unfortunately.

Funds are very flexible as I realize this is very last minute.

We're flexible on whether this is Big Basin or another park - the goal is to have a solid 4-5 hours of hiking and an awesome Redwood experience. Could we go further north rather than Big Basin? There seems both a lot of information and yet hard to understand which of it is relevant.

Thanks, hive mind!
posted by olya to Travel & Transportation around California, CA (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help with accommodations near Big Basin (there used to be a hostel at Pigeon Point lighthouse), but as long as you are driving to Sonoma, you may as well take a slight detour and stop at Muir Woods and see even more redwoods. There is an easy quick walk or more involved hikes available.
posted by mikepop at 7:02 AM on July 11, 2014

Two other parks to look at for hiking/camping: Henry Cowell (near Big Basin) and Samuel P Taylor (up near Sonoma). Muir Woods is lovely, but pretty crowded much of the time.
posted by judith at 7:06 AM on July 11, 2014

there used to be a hostel at Pigeon Point lighthouse

There still is. I got quite sad when I read your message because I thought you meant it had closed, but as far as I can tell from the website it's still up and running.

I have wonderful memories of a stay there ~6 years ago -- the location, on a cliff directly overlooking the ocean and a lovely beach, is impossible to beat.
posted by mekily at 7:24 AM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: I grew up in the SF Bay Area -- there are a lot of good hikes there.

I found a website, bahiker, that had the following long hikes that looked good:
11 mile hike to waterfalls and redwoods
12 mile hike through redwoods to the ocean
7 mile loop through redwoods, chaparral

If none of those strike your fancy, you may want to check out the master list of hikes, sorted by length.
posted by elmay at 8:07 AM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: Lordy why would you schlep all the way to Big Basin when there are awesome redwoods in Sonoma County?

Armstrong Redwoods is 45 miles from Sonoma. Several great trails and it's nowhere near as crowded as Big Basin or Muir Woods.

There's camping at Austin Creek SRA, but you'd need gear. There are, however, several rustic resort type places on the Russian River in and around Guerneville, two miles south of Armstrong Redwoods. Like Johnson's, Northwood, or Monte Rio.

Or actually I'd recommend the TV-free, primarily LBGT occupied Highlands Resort and their clothing-optional pool.

SO! Stay with friends in San Jose, Thursday drive to Guerneville, check into Highlands, drive up to Armstrong (or heck, hike up there, it's two miles), hike for hours, come back, shower off the trail grime, dinner at Stumptown Brewery, then make new friends at the pool. Friday morning leisurely breakfast at Pat's, another day of hiking, another night of making friends at the pool. Saturday morning you check out, drive 45 miles to Sonoma, do the family thing, and Sunday you drive the 60 miles south to SFO and you're done.

And I'd recommend hiking on the coast on Friday. Like up at Salt Point and Kruse Rhododendrons. Note: Once you've paid your day use fee at one state park you don't have to pay again at other parks. So if you're into history there's Fort Ross on the way.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:08 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

you may as well take a slight detour and stop at Muir Woods and see even more redwoods. There is an easy quick walk or more involved hikes available

...if you can find a place to park -- may be impossible, depending on when you arrive. And the Muir Woods might be anti-climactic after Big Basin. But I think you'll be fine if you follow elsietheee's advice.
posted by Rash at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2014

Muir Woods' redwoods and ground-level pathway are more stunning and dramatic than many of the redwoods you'll see in Big Basin, but since it's such a tourist destination, you'll have less of a communing-with-nature experience than you'll have at BB. BUT. If you leave the ~1-mile loop of Muir Woods and pick any of the upward hikes you can get a great, long, redwood-y hike in and see very few people depending on the day. This may be your most convenient bet!

However, Big Basin is cool because it's less crowded, there are many more potential hikes you can do, and you also get to see more California mountain countryside on the way there. This 11-mile hike is pretty awe-inspiring.

Check your MeMail in a couple min for a recommendation of a nice place to stay ~20 min drive from Big Basin.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for all the replies! You guys are fabulous. Please don't hesitate to leave more ideas for those who may be visiting the area in the future - I think the idea of hiking near-er Sonoma is GREAT, especially as it turns out we can drive to Sonoma towards "morning", not "early morning".
posted by olya at 12:08 PM on July 11, 2014

Okay I just noticed you're coming in August. If it's the first weekend in August and you had wanted to do the Guerneville thing you may have a bit of an issue. That's Lazy Bear Week and Guerneville will be overtaken by large hairy gay men and the folks that love them. I think a lot of places have minimum stay requirements and are probably already booked.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your advice. If anyone else is looking for information:
- we took a late start with a brunch and drove up the coast (Hwy 1) on Thursday to Guerneville which took half the day with many leisurely stops on the coast. It was glorious.
- Armstrong Redwoods have a great 5.6 mile hike, and beautiful redwoods.
- We AirBnb-ed which worked very well
posted by olya at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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