Dramatic coastline and shady redwood groves
HIGHLIGHTS: South of San Francisco, halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, Butano State Park surprises almost every first-time visitor. From the windswept coastline along Highway 1, you enter a shady redwood glade. Find yourself awed by the mossy Douglas firs, bigleaf maples, sword ferns, false Solomon’s seal, trillium and sorrel. The redwoods are mostly second growth, but careful explorers can find some ancient ones, too. In 1992, Save the Redwoods League helped add 1,100 acres to Butano, which now totals 3,500 acres.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, picnicking, backpacking, plant studying and bird watching. At Ano Nuevo lookout, you can get a glimpse of an adjacent elephant seal reserve. Bicycling on paved roads and Butano and Olmo fire roads. Horseback riding on paved roads and fire roads.
Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, forest walks, and Junior Ranger programs) start on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check the schedule for days and times. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring with other children.
VISITOR CENTER: At the park entrance. Coming from the south, turn off Highway 1 at Gazos Creek Road. Following the park signs, drive about 3 miles northeast. Coming from the north, turn off Highway 1 at Pescadero Road, and turn right on Cloverdale road, for a total distance of 4.5 miles.
CAMPGROUNDS: 21 drive-in sites and 18 walk-in sites. RVs up to 24 feet. No showers. To make a reservation, visit www.reserveamerica.com (external link) or call (800) 444-7275.
TRAILS: 18 miles of trails. For a quick look at the park’s most verdant areas, try the 1.5-mile Little Butano Creek Trail, which starts just below the campground.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: From February to April, you can find calypso orchids in bloom. In the fall, the bigleaf maple’s golden leaves light up low-lying areas. In winter, look for wandering newts and banana slugs, and the distinctive red cap and long stalk of the redwood rooter mushroom.
HIDDEN GEM: At Jackson Flat and Goat Hill, the forest opens up into mountainside marshes, where Pacific tree frogs and California newts swim among the cattails and other water-loving plants.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Parking lot, visitor center. Campground restroom may be usable, but assistance may be needed.
DOGS: Allowed in campground, day-use area, paved roads and fire roads — on leash at all times. In tent or vehicle at night.
ENTRANCE FEE: $10 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to walk or bike into the park.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit Butano State Park (external link) or call the visitor center at (650) 879-2040.
EAT: Duarte’s Tavern (external link) is a favorite among our staff. Both Megan Ferreira Derhammer, former staffer, and Sharon Rabichow, Director of Gift Planning, recommend ordering “a soup of 1/2 green chili and 1/2 artichoke (mixed together!) and a piece of olallieberry pie.” Megan’s third favorite item on the menu is the crab sandwich.
STOP: Sharon suggests stopping at Harley Farms (external link) (Pescadero) for some goat cheese tasting. If the season is right you can pick olalliberries from the various farms on the route.
Megan also likes to stop at Arcancelli Grocery (aka Norms Market) to buy some fresh (still warm!) garlic and herb bread or Phipps Ranch (external link) to pick berries (depending on the season) and to buy dried beans, legumes, jams, herbs, spices, etc.
Shawn Marchand, former staffer, recommends a stop at Pescadero State Beach (external link).
Both Shawn and Megan say antiquing at the shops along Stage Road is a fun and popular thing to do in Pescadero.
FAVORITE HIKE: Sharon recommends the River Trail and Shawn prefers the Six Bridges Trail.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Jennifer Benito-Kowalski, Chief Communications Officer, says the Calypso orchid, which blooms from February to April, is a must-see.
Sharon recommends having a picnic by the creek.
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Acres Protected by the League: 3,500
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