Guided First-Day Hikes at 12 redwood state parks on Jan. 1

California State Parks hosts amazing outings

A group of people stand in a forest covered by snow.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park leads group hikes. Photo by Jiyi Jun, Save the Redwoods League

California State Parks is inviting Californians to kick-start the new year in a healthy way by getting fresh air and enjoying the outdoors with annual First-Day Hikes on Jan. 1, 2023. More than 50 California state parks are participating, 12 of which spotlight redwoods. Check out the variety of hikes, from snowshoeing among giant sequoias in Calaveras Big Trees State Park and a 5-mile hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, to short, ADA-accessible hikes among the coast redwoods of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and Hendy Woods State Park. 

 

Green sorrel covers the ground of a dense forest of large redwoods.
The Pioneer Nature Trail runs through the ancient redwood forest of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Photo by musicvet2003, Flickr Creative Commons.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Where: 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA 95446.
Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.; starting every hour.
Parking:  $10 per vehicle, $9 for a vehicle driven by a senior citizen
What to expect: This is a two-hour docent-led walk on an ADA-accessible trail along the forest floor. Learn about redwoods ecology.
Length of hike: 1.5 miles.
Ages: All ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Preparation: Dress for the weather and bring plenty of water and snacks.
Special instructions: Hike will be held rain or shine.
Contactstewards@stewardscr.org or (707) 869-9177.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Where: Ocean View Summit. The park is 25 miles northwest of Santa Cruz via Highways 9 and 236.
Time: 9 a.m.
Parking: Former headquarters area parking lot. Reservation for parking must be made 24 hours prior to arrival here. Vehicle day-use fee is $8, paid during the reservation process.
What to expect: Join us for a summit hike up to a lookout, offering a view of the park in recovery after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires. Learn about the park’s flora and fauna, and see the ocean if it’s a clear day.
Length of hike: 4 miles for about three hours.
Ages: 6 and up preferred. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 
Preparation: Dress in layers and bring rain gear if needed. Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water as there is no drinking water or food at the park. Trekking poles are recommended.
Special instructions: Meet at the interpretive center at the former site of the Nature Museum and Gift Store, past the entrance kiosk. Pre-registration for the hike is required. The hike is cancelled if there’s heavy rain.
ContactBigBasin@ports-ca.us 

 

Three snow-covered giant sequoias on a sunny winter day.
Russet-hued giant sequoia stand tall in the mixed-conifer forest of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Photo by Oscar Vasquez

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 

Where: The park is northeast of Stockton, 4 miles northeast of Arnold on Highway 4. Meet at the Warming Hut near the Visitor center. 
Time: 11 a.m.
Parking: Visitor center Lot or overflow locations ($10 Day-Use per vehicle, Annual Pass or 4th Grade Adventure Pass).
What to expect: Learn about giant sequoia trees and the winter season and hike a section of the 1.7-mile North Grove Trail. This may be a snowshoe hike if it snows.  
Length of hike: Up to 2 miles. The length of the hike may vary based on conditions. Plan for about two hours.
Ages: 6 and up preferred. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 
Preparation: Dress in layers and bring snow/rain gear if needed. Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water. Bring snowshoes if you have them.
Special instructions: Space is limited. Large groups (10 or more) should book a special group guided hike. In case of inclement weather or poor trail conditions, the route and length may be altered. Check Caltrans road conditions and weather before leaving home. Chains may be required to reach the park.
Contact: calaverasbigtreessp@parks.ca.gov or call (209) 795-7980. 

 

A dirt path leads past a dense forest of giant coast redwoods. Fallen trees are in the midground
Visitors can experience Big Hendy Grove on the All Access Trail in Hendy Woods State Park.

Hendy Woods State Park

Where: 18599 Philo Greenwood Rd, Philo, CA 95466
Time: 11 a.m. 
Parking: $8 day-use fee; park at the day-use picnic area. Free sunrise to sunset day use for Mendocino County residents.
What to expect: Explore Discovery Loop all access trail with a guided hike through Big Hendy Grove. Learn about the complex systems of redwood ecology as you walk among the towering giants. 
Length of hike: 1.5 miles (ADA accessible trail) 
Ages: All ages.
Preparation: Dress in layers for cool and wet weather and bring water. Binoculars will be available to check out.
Special instructions: Hike will happen rain or shine.
Contact: steve.jahelka@parks.ca.gov. 

A trail through a redwood forest with vibrant green leaves lit by the golden sunlight
The Redwood Grove Loop Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Photo: Veronica Miranda

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park 

Where: Felton CA 95018. Choose from three hikes: Fall Creek Trail to the Barrel Mill; Powder Mill Fire Road to Observation Deck; and Redwood Grove.
Time: 9, 10 and 10:30 a.m.
Parking: 

  • For Fall Creek Trail, meet at the Fall Creek parking lot (located off Felton Empire Grade.) 
  • For Powder Mill Fire Road, meet at the campground parking lot (located off Graham Hill Road.) 
  • For Redwood Grove hike, meet at main visitor parking lot (located off Highway 9.) 
  • Vehicle day-use fee is $10. 

What to expect 

  • Fall Creek Trail hike at 9 a.m.: Explore Fall Creek on this 5-mile, moderately graded hike. The hike will follow Fall Creek to the historic Barrel Mill site. This hike will last approximately four hours. It is recommended for ages 8 and up. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 
  • Powder Mill Fire Road to Observation Deck hike at 10 a.m.: This 1.5-mile two-hour hike will meander through sandy soils on the mountaintop, about 800 feet above present-day sea level. Explore this beautiful landscape and learn about the rare and unique things that call it home. The hike is recommended for ages 6 and up. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 
  • Redwood Grove hike at 10:30 a.m.: Hear some of the riveting stories of the park’s history, including the movies created in the old-growth redwood grove and how visionary environmentalists saved it from being logged. This 1-mile hike will last about 1.5 hours and is recommended for ages 12 and up. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

Preparation: Dress in weather-appropriate clothing. Bring warm layers. Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water and snacks.
Special instructions: Pre-registration for the hike is required here.
Contact: Dylan.McManus@parks.ca.gov 

 

A dirt path leads through a forest of large redwoods.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Photo by renedrivers, Flickr Creative Commons

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Where: Visitor center, 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott CA 95571. The hike is on the Gould Loop Trail, across the street from the visitor center.
Time: 11 a.m.
Parking: Visitor center parking lot.
What to expect: Join our cultural and natural interpreter on a walk through an old-growth forest. Learn of the trees’ spectacular adaptations, habitats, and the cultural stewardship since time immemorial. The trail is ADA-accessible.
Length of hike: 0.6 mile, 50 minutes.
Ages: All ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Preparation: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water.
Special instructions: Meet at the visitor center.
Contact: erika.granadino@parks.ca.gov. 

A dirt path leads through a forest of large redwoods.
Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Photo by Robert Shea, Flickr Creative Commons

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Where: The park is 9 miles east of Crescent City. Two hikes: Leiffer Loop Trail and Howland Hill Road Stout trailhead.
Time: 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Parking: Morning hike, meet at Walker Road-Leiffer Trailhead; afternoon hike, meet at Howland Hill Road Stout trailhead. 

What to expect: 

  • For Leiffer Loop Trail at 10:30 a.m.: Walk on a natural path in the old-growth redwoods. See beautiful ancient trees and understory plants of this magnificent redwood forest. The hike is a little more than 1 mile. 
  • For the Howland Hill Rd Stout trailhead at 2 p.m.: This is a one-hour meditation/hike. Meet at the trailhead, then walk down to the Stout tree. You will be invited to get barefoot to connect to the earth and the trees. After a short, guided meditation, you’ll have a chance to walk the 1/2-mile trail on your own with or without shoes to practice the healing techniques you will learn. 

Ages: All ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Preparation: Wear comfortable walking shoes and layers, and bring water.
Special instructions: For the Leiffer Loop Trail hike, meet at Walker Road. For the meditation/hike, meet at the Stout trailhead off Howland Hill Road.
Contact: elizabeth.rings@parks.ca.gov for morning hike; wonder_heart@nps.gov for afternoon hike. 

Mount Tamalpais State Park 

Where: Loop hike from Pantoll Trailhead, 3801 Panoramic Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941. Loop includes the Alpine, TCC, and Old Mine trails. 
Time: 2 p.m. 
Parking: Pantoll parking lot. $8 vehicle day-use fees payable at the Pantoll kiosk or via Yodel app. Valid California State Parks passes (Golden Poppy, Distinguished Veteran, Library Pass) accepted if displayed properly in vehicle. There is a Marin Transit Stagecoach Route 61 bus stop at Pantoll as well. 
What to expect: This afternoon hike will refresh and inspire participants with some of the variety of habitats found on Mount Tamalpais. The hike will start out in woodland dominated by Douglas-fir, but quickly descend into coast redwood forest. Eventually, lush forest will give way to coastal shrubland and views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco. We will safely and soberly toast the New Year before taking the historically interesting Old Mine Trail back to Pantoll.  
Length of hike: The hike is 3.2 miles long and will take 2.5-3 hours with photo and snack breaks. 
Ages: Ages 7 and up preferred. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 
Preparation: Dress in layers and bring rain gear and/or a windbreaker if needed (check forecast). Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water and snacks. Trekking poles are helpful. 
Special instructions: For safety, this hike will be cancelled if there is steady rain or a high wind advisory. 
Contact: Hillary.colyer@parks.ca.gov  

 

A bridge spans a ravine in a redwood forest.
The Pfeiffer Falls Trail in California’s Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on June 1, 2021. This realigned Pfeiffer Falls Trail no longer brings foot traffic directly through the sensitive streambed, and it restores natural habitat necessary for a healthy aquatic ecosystem. Photo by Max Whittaker, courtesy of Save the Redwoods League

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park 

Where: Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trail. Meet at the Redwood Deck near the Big Sur Lodge Restaurant, 47225 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920. The deck is 0.3 mile down the River Path from day-use lot 1.
Time: 1 p.m.
Parking: Day-use parking is $10 per vehicle.
What to expect:  Join a moderately strenuous hike and discover the unique habitats of Big Sur. Enjoy views of the entire Big Sur Valley as we climb out of the redwoods into the coast live oak forest. See the impacts of the Soberanes Fire and how the park has recovered. Visit the 60-foot Pfeiffer Falls on the loop back down through the redwoods.
Length of hike: 2.5 miles.
Ages: All ages welcome, however there are some steep sections of trail and more than 250 stair steps. Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View trail is not stroller accessible. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Preparation: Wear layers, sturdy hiking shoes and bring water for this two-hour hike. This hike may be cancelled due to extreme weather; check the park’s website before the event.
Contact: BigSurInterp@parks.ca.gov or Park Interpretive Office at (831) 667-3130. 

A footbridge leads to a lush redwood forest.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Ginny Dexter.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Where: Karl Knapp/Foothill Loop. The park is 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway off Highway 101.
Meet at the visitor center at the southern end of the parkway.
Time: 1 p.m.
Parking: Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.
What to expect: This is a one-hour ADA accessible hike, viewing some of the largest trees in the park. Participants will be walking along beautiful Prairie Creek with the potential of seeing spawning salmon and other wildlife.
Length of hike: 2.5 miles.
Ages: All ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Preparation: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water.
Contactmax.forster@parks.ca.gov 

 

A path on the right leads through a forest of ancient redwoods.
Richardson Grove State Park. Photo by Don Fulano, Flickr Creative Commons

Richardson Grove State Park

Where: Exhibit Trail. Meet in front of the visitor center. The park is 7 miles south of Garberville on Highway 101.
Time: 1 p.m.
Parking: Visitor center parking lot.
What to expect: Join a cultural and natural resource interpreter on a 50-minute guided walk through an old-growth redwood forest. Learn of their spectacular adaptations, native management, and the parks’ 100-year legacy. Marvel at these ancient giants on this ADA-accessible, even-surface loop trail along the iconic Redwood Highway.
Length of hike: 0.4 mile.
Ages: All ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Preparation: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water.
Contact: erika.granadino@parks.ca.gov 

 

A stream runs through a redwood forest on a sunny day.
Forest of Nisene Marks Photo by Davidlohr Bueso, Flickr Creative Commons

The Forest of Nisene Marks

Where: Loma Prieta Grade Trail and Aptos Creek Road. The park is 4 miles north of Aptos on Aptos Creek Road.
Time: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. 
Parking: George’s Picnic Area. Vehicle day-use parking fee is $8. 
What to expect: Visit the site where the town of Loma Prieta was located and the hidden spot deep in the redwood forest where marine fossils can be found. We will encounter the remains of the old lumber mill, follow the trail of the ghost trestles, and learn about the wonders of our coast redwoods and the traits that make them survivors.
Length of hike: 4 miles, 3 hours. 
Ages: 10 and up preferred. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Preparation: Dress in layers and wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water and snacks. 
Special instructions: Meet at George’s Picnic Area, 1 mile past the entrance station right before the steel bridge. Limited parking—carpooling is encouraged! Pre-registration is required here.  
Contact: Ashley.Wemp@parks.ca.gov or (831) 685-6444. 

Pro tips  

  • More hikes: See a list of additional first-day hikes. The webpage is being updated regularly with new hiking opportunities. 
  • Download the app: Before heading to the hikes, check out the California State Parks mobile app, with which you can download the park unit maps and get up-to-date information on any trail closures and events. First-Day Hike participants will also be able to join virtually with the check-in challenge, post their progress, and share photos along their way.  
  • Know before you go: Before leaving home, check the status of the park unit you want to visit to find out what restrictions and guidelines are in place. Have a back-up plan in case your destination is crowded. Stay home if you are sick. 
  • Play it safe: Find out what precautions you should take when exploring the outdoors, especially if this is your first time visiting. For example, make sure to dress in layers, bring plenty of snacks and water, and wear appropriate hiking shoes. 
  • Leave no trace: Leave areas better than how you found them by staying on designated trails and packing out all trash. Do not disturb wildlife or plants. 

About the author

Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.

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