Fall & Winter Outdoor Ideas

Hiking in fall at Big Basin.

Hiking in fall on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail near Waddell Beach in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo by Mike Kahn

The crisp coolness in the air smells fresh, the leaves are changing color and starting to fall, and squirrels are gathering nuts for the winter ahead. Our seasons may be subtle here in the Bay Area but there is no denying it – fall is here. The wonderful thing about the Santa Cruz Mountains is that even throughout the fall and winter there are abundant opportunities to get out and enjoy our local forests.

Bigleaf maple leaves.

Bigleaf maple leaves changing color. Photo by Mike Kahn

Whether you want to get out to explore the changing colors of oaks and maples, watch banana slugs and salamanders move across the damp earth, listen to the low roar of a gushing waterfall, or even camp overnight, here are some ideas for fall and winter outdoor opportunities.

Fall Leaves

The trails in Castle Rock State Park near Skyline Boulevard have many opportunities to see oaks and maples changing colors. Visit this Castle Rock Park Hikes page and scroll down to the Skyline, Saratoga Gap Loop hike.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is another great place to experience leaves changing colors, as well as beautiful redwoods. Visit this Henry Cowell Hiking page and scroll down the Meadow-River Loop for a hike that includes many deciduous trees including sycamores and box elders.

Berry Creek Falls.

Scott Peden at Berry Creek Falls on New Year’s Day 2011. Photo by Kurt Leal.

You can also experience the fall colors of red alders, bigleaf maples, and more along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail when hiking from Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Falls.

Waterfalls

Be prepared to check out these waterfalls once the winter rains get going:

Camping & Backpacking

Fall camping in the redwoods.

Fall camping in the redwoods. Photo by Ann Blanchard

Some of the campgrounds in Big Basin Redwoods State Park are open all year. Portola Redwoods State Park’s campground is open through October, and Butano State Park’s campground is open through the end of November. Some of the backpacking camps are also available with reduced service in Castle Rock, Big Basin, Portola, and Butano.

Elephant Seals

Fall and winter is an exciting time to visit the coast at Ano Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals. From September through November you can see the fall juvenile haul out, and from mid-December through March you can view breading season.

Thank you for protecting and visiting wonderful places in the Santa Cruz Mountains.