Winter camping: it’s something that’s cold and often difficult in many parts of the country, but in California we are lucky enough to enjoy a mild (although sometimes wet) winter.
Huckleberry Loop Camping in Big Basin
Last weekend I went camping in Big Basin with my friend Vanessa. We arrived on Friday night to a downpour of rain. We decided not to let that get us down so we quickly set up the tent (it’s a great one for the rain since it takes about 3 minutes for 2 people to set it up, and about 7 solo. You can check it out here. It’s also great for backpacking).
We then found a relatively dry spot and warmed up some chili that I made earlier in the day. Not only did it taste delicious, but it warmed us to the bone. If you want to check out the recipe, you can look here (it also pairs great with this cornbread). I usually make a few modifications to the chili: don’t crush the kidney beans, add a can of black beans, add a can of corn, increase spices a little due to the added ingredients.
Even though everything we owned was a little damp in the morning, it was hard not to enjoy the effects of the rain. The air smelled so fresh and the colors all around seemed more polished and vibrant than usual.
And then when the majestic sun appeared through the fog in the morning. 🙂
We even happened upon some critters! Friday night I almost stepped on a raccoon that ran out in front of me while I walked to the bathroom, and Sunday morning we saw this massive banana slug.
Note: I recently learned that it is harmful to the slugs to pick them up because of our salty skin, so try to keep your hands to yourself!
For our Saturday we decided to hike out to Berry Creek Falls. We walked about a mile from our campsite to the main park headquarters to grab a map and start our hike.
While rain and cold may discourage some people from camping, it sure doesn’t discourage anyone from hiking! The parking lot was packed full when we arrived at headquarters, around noon. This didn’t matter to us since we walked, but be warned if you visit for the day.
We went in to the visitor center to grab a map from the ranger, who helped us realize that we were starting our hike a bit late in the day for how long it was. We hustled a bit more after that, although there were many other people out on the trail at the same time as us.
Our hike began through the Redwood Loop trail for just a few minutes before taking a right turn on the Skyline to Sea Trail. After crossing over Opal Creek, we went straight until we hit Dool Trail, where we turned left. Quickly after starting on Dool Trail, we then turned left again for Sunset Trail.
The beginning of this hike involved a lot of trail-changes and turns, but once we made it to Sunset Trail, that is where we stayed until we reached the falls.
My favorite part of the hike (besides the waterfalls, of course! That’s coming up soon) was right before the waterfalls when we reached the top of a ridge that had a great open view of the surrounding area.
Although it was a brief part of the trail, it offered a nice change of scenery and a little bit of sunlight.
Just a few minutes down the trail from the ridge, we began to hear the waterfalls. They were far from disappointing.
This was the first waterfall in the series. It was very shallow and we saw many people taking their shoes off to walk in it and get fun pictures. We weren’t quite as willing to deal with cold feet so we stood on dry ground for our photos.
After a quick lunch of sandwhiches and fruit, we continued down the trail (now the Berry Creek Falls Trail). Most of the waterfalls had this yellow rock underneath.
There was a part that was very slippery and steep, but there were cables built in to the rock to hold on to that helped a lot.
The trail followed along the creek for a ways, but right as we thought the waterfalls were all behind us, we ran into this beauty.
This seemed to be a very popular photo spot because of the deck. We didn’t linger long, but snapped a few shots.
The rest of the trail was pretty moderate, nothing too steep up or down, but lots of green to enjoy.
We were feeling very exhausted by the last quarter of the hike, but we pushed through and were able to complete the 12 miles in 4.5 hours! We were definitely glad to be done before it got too dark.
That evening we headed back to our campsite and had quite an amusing failure of a time trying to make fire.
Next time, I swear, we will be successful!
This hike is very long (~12 miles) and takes most people an average of 6 hours, so it is advisable to start earlier in the day, especially if you plan on bringing a picnic lunch or taking a lot of pictures.
There are great instructions, a trail map, and pictures on EveryTrail, so I definitely recommend checking that out.
Since this hike takes a half day, make sure to bring lots of water and snacks. Sunscreen is unnecessary since about 95% of this hike is under the cover of giant redwoods. And I know I sound like a squeaky wheel now, but this hike is very muddy in the winter. I wish I had counted how many people we saw hiking in Converse (and ruining them). We even saw one man who was carrying a very nice pair of Sperry’s and instead choosing to hike barefoot!
The weekend Vanessa and I went was the last weekend Big Basin is open for camping until springtime, but they are open year-round for adventures, so go check it out during their open hours! Head to their website for more information.
Note that because of the recent storms, some of the trails have fallen trees and debris.
The best time of year to do this hike is probably spring since the waterfalls will still be flowing and it will be a little bit warmer. However, if you don’t mind a bit of mud and a chance of rain, winter is really a luscious and thrilling time to do this trail!
What’s your favorite place to camp and hike in the winter? Share in the comments 🙂