Big Basin Redwoods State Park to reopen July 22 for first time since massive fire – Monterey Herald


In the final stage of its recovery, Big Basin Redwoods State Park — California’s oldest state park and home to nearly 300-foot-tall ancient redwoods — will reopen to the public on July 22 for the first time since a historic wildfire charred most of its landscape two years ago.

“We expect the public to prepare,” said Chris Spohrer, Santa Cruz District Superintendent of State Parks. “There are limited facilities. There is no electricity. There is no running water. There is no internet.

Those arriving by car will need to make advance reservations to limit overcrowding and the number of vehicles in the still-recovering landscape, state park officials said Thursday.

A new reservation system has started taking reservations. Up to 45 vehicles at a time will be allowed in the former park headquarters. People who come to the park by bus, on foot or by bike will not be required to have a reservation.

Highway 236, which runs from Boulder Creek through Santa Cruz Mountain Park, will also reopen on July 22. Reservations are not required to drive on the road, but motorists will not be allowed to stop and walk through the forest due to safety concerns and lack of facilities.

Reservations can be made at or by calling (831) 338-8867. Most places will be available 60 days in advance. A limited number of reservations will be released three days before the tour date, park officials said.

Parking fees are $6 per vehicle plus a $2 reservation fee.

The fire that devastated Big Basin was the worst in the region’s recorded history. Triggered by multiple lightning strikes on August 16, 2020, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burned 86,509 acres, an area nearly three times the size of the city of San Francisco, in rural Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties.

The flames destroyed 1,490 structures, mostly around the town of Boulder Creek, making it the 12th most destructive fire in state history and a disaster that caused more property damage in Santa County. Cruz than the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

Overall, 97% of Big Basin’s 18,000 acres have burned. The fire destroyed campgrounds, the park’s iconic 1930s headquarters, outdoor amphitheater, museum, gift shops, ranger houses and dozens of wooden bridges.

But the massive trees resisted. Although the fire killed thousands of Douglas fir trees, nearly all of Big Basin’s famous ancient redwoods, dating back 2,000 years, have survived, biologists say, although many have burn scars on their trunks or burnt branches that will remain for decades.

“It was a remarkable recovery,” Spohrer said. “There is significant regrowth in almost all redwoods. They have green shoots. There are dead Douglas fir trees in the forest that have been removed, and lots of flowering shrubs and plants that are coming back. The landscape is recovering well.

Not all of Big Basin will reopen on July 22. But the famous Redwood Loop trail near the old park headquarters will be, as well as 18 miles of fire roads for biking and hiking.

There will be rangers on site, portable restrooms and an information booth with maps and interpretive signs. Meanwhile, a coastal segment of the park that has not been severely burned, Rancho Del Oso, located along Highway 1 near the Santa Cruz-San Mateo county line, has been open since last year.

Spohrer said more trails will be open in the fall and the number of visitors allowed will be increased as crews continue to remove dead trees that still pose safety risks.

In May, state park officials unveiled a long-term plan to revitalize the park.

From next year, during peak months, visitors will need to obtain an online reservation to enter the park and take a shuttle bus three miles into the heart of the park from a parking area at its eastern edge near a former Hewlett Packard retirement center. called Petit Bassin.

Similar reservation systems have been implemented in recent years at Yosemite National Park, Muir Woods National Monument and other busy California parks.

The plan calls for moving many facilities out of their historic location, where buildings, stores and offices were built generations ago on the roots and in the massive redwood groves. Instead, the park’s main entrance and a new visitor center will be at Saddle Mountain near Little Basin. The other entrances to Rancho del Oso and the upper portion of Highway 236 will remain.

And new campsites will be built on Lodge Road, inside the park but away from the old groves.

The reconstruction plan, which is expected to take place over five years or more, is called the “Reimagining Big Basin Vision Summary” and is available at

Before the fire, Big Basin received 1 million visitors a year, serving as a popular destination for generations of campers, hikers and families. Longtime parks advocates said Thursday they’re glad it’s open, even in part.

“Initially, fans from all over the world rallied in support of Big Basin,” said Sara Barth, executive director of the Sempervirens Fund, a Los Altos group that helped establish the park in 1902 and continues to raise funds for it. protect the redwoods. “As the park reopens, we can make new memories together at California’s oldest state park.”

BOULDER CREEK, CA - MAY 26: State Parks officials lead a media tour of Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Thursday, May 26, 2022, near Boulder Creek, California.  The park has been closed since the CZU complex fire in August 2020. State park officials anticipate limited daily use this summer.  (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
BOULDER CREEK, CA – MAY 26: State Park officials lead a media tour of Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Thursday, May 26, 2022, near Boulder Creek, California. The park has been closed since the CZU complex fire in August 2020. State park officials anticipate limited daily use this summer. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

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