Rancho Del Oso, a nature reserve and small-scale farm at the coastal entrance of Big Basin State Park, offers a variety of spectacular recreation activities. Nestled 17 miles north of Santa Cruz at the mouth of Waddell Creek, accessing the ranch necessitates a drive along California’s stunning Highway 1, whether you’re coming from San Francisco or San Jose.
There is a plethora of activities to choose from, including guided wildlife walks, festivals and events, or bird watching in the Theodore J Hoover Nature Preserve, all of which can be found on the parks website. For the independent day-tripper, however, the must-do outing is a there-and-back hike along Waddell Creek to Berry Creek Falls, located 6 miles inland.
This moderate hike includes massive old growth Redwoods, gorgeous Bays and Oaks, and even the occasional tiger lily. The trail weaves through backwoods campgrounds, passes over elegant wooden bridges, and parallels Waddell Creek, frequently merging with a small dirt fire road that is accessible for bike riders.
After 6 miles of easy hiking, Berry Creek Falls greets the traveler, serving as a gateway to a series of waterfalls that tumble through the ancient old growths lying closer to the heart of Big Basin State Park. At this point, the hiker can either travel deeper inland, even hiking all the way to Big Basin Ranger Station for a one-way adventure. However, after a majestic lunch break underneath the 50 ft waterfall (it is worth standing underneath!), the day-tripper should turn back towards the Pacific for a relaxed stroll to return to the car.
For those who are brave enough, the day can end with a chilly dip into Waddell Beach, a world-renowned spot for Wind and Kite Surfing. All in all, Rancho Del Oso is one of many gems along Highway 1, and serves as a lesser-known but totally fantastic entrance into the remarkable redwood forests of Big Basin State Park.