Hiking Butano State Park

Heading down Highway 1 on a sunny Sunday morning is the perfect start to a Valentine’s Day hike. It’s a relatively short drive from San Francisco to Butano State Park, and we were pulling into the park after about an hour drive. The visitor center wasn’t open, but self registration forms are available from the main gate building to pay your $10/car fee. There are only a couple parking spots at the visitor center and a few more at a picnic area a little down the road (toilets here). We parked off the road just before a small bridge. There are a couple more small parking areas farther down the road.

We grabbed a trail map and started off on the Jackson Flats Trail, just to the right of the visitor center for a clockwise loop. The trail took us through towering redwoods and wildflowers were beginning to bloom along the trail. There’s osoberry, huckleberry, wild cucumber, trillium, ferns, false Solomon’s seal, milk maids, checker lily, Douglas iris, and many more. Banana slugs!

We eventually took a slight right on the Canyon Trail. This trail takes you in and out through a several little canyons, some with streams through them. We saw a couple hawks and heard a woodpecker somewhere. There’s a nice diversity of habitat between the cool, shaded canyon interiors and the warm and dry ridges. On the ridges there are some great manzanitas and we even saw a couple western fence lizards. We got one good ocean view, but had to look pretty closely to distinguish water from sky.

After winding in and out of the canyons and ridges, the Canyon Trail meets the Indian Trail. To continue our loop, we took a right on the Indian Trail for a brief segment, and then continued right down the Olmo Fire Road. You can take the Doe Ridge Trail, but we stayed on the Olmo Fire Road to the connector trail to Goat Hill Trail and then took a right at the fork to travel W/NW (grabbing a map really helps!). This segment passes down by a small wetland, and then ends through redwoods again as the trail reconnects to the Olmo Fire Road and travels near Ben Ries Camp. The trail reconnects to the main access road that leads to the visitor center along the creek, or you can take the Six Bridges Trail for a slightly longer route.

I’ll be honest that we had planned to take the much more direct Ano Nuevo Trail on the way back, but had seen a “Bee-ware” sign cautioning for yellow jackets on that trail and decided to take the more wandering and potentially less worrisome route! We didn’t encounter any yellow jackets.

This was an excellent hike with a great diversity of habitat and landscapes. We would definitely recommend it and hope to go back to catch the calypso orchids!

Date: February 14, 2016
Trail: Jackson Flats to Canyon to Olmo, to Goat Hill
Length: ~ 5.5 mi
Elevation gain: ~ 1,100'
Difficulty: easy

Head to Point Reyes next? Read about Wildcat Camp >
Or check out Henry W. Coe State Park and go swimming at China Hole >

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