Finding Solitude in Butano State Park

We often adventure to places where there are few people so we can recharge and enjoy the solitude that a quiet forest offers. Butano State Park is a 4,000 acre gem in the California State Park system hidden in a canyon filled with second and third growth redwoods. The trails are lightly trafficked making it amazingly peaceful and a perfect place to recharge.

Butano State Park

Entering Butano State Park we were greeted by the ranger letting us know it was a quiet day in the park. The last time we hiked here there were just a few more people, but we still felt like it was the Hidden Gem of the California State Park System. The restrooms are about 1/4 mile in from the entrance kiosk but the Jackson Flats trail head is just behind the Visitor Center at the entrance. We opted to drive down to the restrooms then drive back to the trail head. Since not many people were at the park we had our pick of parking!

Jackson Flats Trail

Jackson Flats trail starts off level and swings around behind the visitor center. Tiny little white mushrooms lined the path as we started up the switchbacks. It was like a little mushroom city there were so many of them along the path! The trails in this park are super scenic. You do get expansive views along Canyon Trail but the real beauty is hiking the trails.

Hiking along, the young redwoods were lush and tall surrounding us. Every time we step into a redwood forest the mind instantly clears, the soul calms and the body relaxes. So amazing it can have this much of an effect on a person. As you hike, don’t forget to look up to see the strong branches of the forest canopy hiding the sun from you.

The elevation gain on Jackson Flats trail is slow. Switchbacks expertly placed make it easy to climb the nine hundred feet to Canyon trail. We love when the parks have interesting natural bridges. Sometimes it is a fallen tree but this time it was cut logs secured in the muddy part of the trail for us to hop on. Then it was boards covered in netting to prevent the moss from getting to slippery.

Redwoods are dispersed throughout most of this trail. Then all of a sudden you come across the most serene redwood grove on this side of the park. Take a moment to pause and enjoy the fresh air and peace. Then continue along the trail to find Canyon trail…just watch your step. The narrow trail hugs the side of the mountain and drops straight down into the redwood forest below where Little Butano Creek flows.

Look for the tree reaching out and holding another tree that is growing tall from its branches. Love how nature just keeps growing regardless of the situation. Some of the trees were twisted, some looked like they had a ribbon of another tree wrapped around the tree trunk and some were handsome and tall.

Canyon Trail

On Canyon trail you head deep into the canyon. Fall leaves were still scattered along the trail providing amazing color against the lush redwoods. The trail climbs then drops down to a small stream to cross then back up more switchbacks. Until here we had only run into 1 other set of hikers. So nice to have the park almost to ourselves! The terrain started to change. Less redwoods more scrub, oaks and manzanitas. The dirt also became more sandy toward the top. From the highest point on the hike, 1,270 ft up, you can see the canyon below and the tops of the forest. We happened to be there on a clear day and could see all the way out to the ocean! Love when we get forest AND ocean views!

We could see where the park started based on the treeline and it felt like we were hiking for a while. We had been. Looked at the AllTrails app and we were past the ‘halfway’ mark. The 9.5 mile hike ended up being 11.2 miles…don’t tell the hubs! πŸ™‚ Thankful for snacks and gorgeous views we kept hiking and looking for Indian trail.

Indian Trail to Olmo Fire Road

Our time on Indian trail was short. Then our time on Olmo Fire Road was short. The views from up here were amazing! We could see the canyon below, the forest canopy, ocean in the distance and all the way across the canyon to where we had been hiking just a short time before! It was crazy to pop out in the sunshine and wide open to see all of these views! On Olmo Fire Road you are bordering private property. The sign said it was a tree farm. Nice place for a tree farm!

Follow Olmo Fire Road as it rolls up and down until you reach Doe Ridge trail.

Doe Ridge Trail

Doe Ridge trail is well marked like the other trails in the park. Take this and drop back down into the lush forest and feel the temperature drop a few degrees as you are enveloped by the tree cover. We were happy to be heading back down at almost 7 miles into the hike.

Here there were larger stumps you could still see from the days when it was logged. The ferns are lush along the forest floor and the second and third growth redwoods look happy and healthy. The trail zig zags as you head back down to the base of the canyon and winds around the mountain. The photos don’t do this park justice. It is truly something you need to experience first hand. It’s like having Muir Woods all to yourself!

Careful as you hike. The tree roots pop up in odd shapes across the trails. Someone has a problem focusing on where her feet land sometimes with all the beauty distracting her. Not naming any names! πŸ™‚

From Doe Ridge trail you drop down to Ben Ries Campground. We definitely want to go back and camp there this summer! It looks amazing! The campsites are surrounded by trees and have just enough room in between them where you don’t feel like you are on top of your neighbor.

The fall colors mixed with the green and red from the redwoods made this place look amazing! We opted to follow the campground road down to the main road and Little Butano Creek. It had rained a couple days before our hike here so there was a little bit of water flowing through the creek but it was still early in our wet season to see much. This was good since some of the trails cross little streams.

Enjoy your hike along the creek back to your car. We saw 1 little newt along here cruising along and more banana slugs that had unfortunately been squished by cars driving by. Not very appetizing. And no, we did not take photos of the yellow carnage. Ick!

If you brought a picnic, the beaches just outside the park would be great to stop and enjoy! We headed home to enjoy fresh crab and a bottle of pinot noir for dinner! πŸ™‚

Hike Details:

Parking is $10 or a CA State Park pass, pit toilets in the parking lot and flushing toilets in the campground, 90% shade, moderate hike of 11.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,706 ft (from all the ups and downs). Sorry no dogs on the trails. Nearest food is technically Pescadero but take a picnic to enjoy on the beach!

Things We Love:

If you have been watching our Instagram feeds (@hikethenwine and @smilinginsonoma) you will see the Hubs strutting around in his prAna Stretch Zion Pant. Currently he has just 2 colors, mud and ginger but looks like they have more selection on Amazon so he might be getting another color! The Hubs would wear these all day every day if he could get away with it! There’s a little bit of stretch to the pant for when he has to bend down and get into just the right position to capture ‘the shot’. He has hiked in light rain with these without the water going through and freezing his legs. They have buttons if you get hot on your hike you can roll up the pant legs a little and let some of the heat out. There’s also air holes in inseam to keep everything just the right temperature. πŸ˜‰ Click on the link below to head over to Amazon and get a pair for yourself!


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Finding Solitude in Butano State Park | Hike Then Wine