Permit - Permits can be obtained by using this form or by calling 831-338-8861 for same day permits. You must check availability calendar first here. Informational guide is here. Cost is $15 per site up to six people and an $8 non-refundable reservation fee. Permit and parking pass are emailed to you once you have paid.
Mileage - The guide/map has mileage listed at 5.7 miles using Jackson Flats and Canyon Trails (my GPS has it at ~7 miles). Using the Fire Road Trail on the way back we recorded 5.4 miles. See map/profiles below.
Camps/Water - This is a dry camp so you must either bring your water or confirm there is water in creeks to treat (there wasn't enough water in creek on our trip). I would recommend just bringing your own. There are 8 sites each with a large food locker. Pit toilet and trash cans closest to trail to sites 1 and 2. NO CAMPFIRES!
Hazards - Poison Oak, mosquitoes (were not too bad), steep terrain, weather (it can seriously rain here) and things on fire (more on that later)
Tyler and I had planned
on a Sierra trip but between the forecast wet weather and the smoke from
the current fires we decided to go somewhere cooler and with better air
quality. After exploring our options we decided on a trip to the redwoods.
Butano Trail Camp has 8 "environmental sites" with a pit toilet
and NO water. We packed in our water, but if the streams are running you
can filter on the way in. You pass some creeks about a mile from camp.
They were NOT flowing when we passed them on this trip, so I would check
with ranger ahead of time. To get to the trailhead leave highway 1 and
head west on Pescadero Road, past Pescadero and then head south on Cloverdale
Road to Butano State Park. We parked at the gate/Visitor Center (see the
stop sign in the picture). There is not a lot of parking here, not sure where the overflow is if this is full. We walked to the picnic area and used those
bathrooms before hitting the trail (follow road further in, 100 yards or
Tyler and I checked
out the Visitor Center before hitting the trail. I recommend checking
it out if it is open the day you go. There are some nice animal displays
and a 3d map of the park. Make sure you check out the dark room in the
left corner (it is a nocturnal display, also very scary). After I regained
my composure from the frightening nocturnal display we hit the trail. If
you like shade then the Jackson Flats Trail is for you. It is probably
around 90 percent covered. We used the Jackson Flats Trail To Canyon Trail
to the Trail Camp. Here is the start of the trail to the right of the
There is plenty of
evidence of old fires through this forest. This area was logged so the
redwoods you see are second and third growth trees. Here is Tyler next
to an old stump.
You will quickly find
yourself at the first junction, which is a four way junction. You will
want to take the second left to stay on the Jackson Flats Trail. If you stay straight you go down the hill
to the road into the campground (don't do that). The loop
we did had us coming back down to this junction on the way out using the Mill Ox Trail
from the Butano Fire Road.
Make sure to look
up occasionally in this forest. You will quickly see that these giants
are filtering almost all of the light out.
There were many butterflies and this one cooperated for a good picture. They were looking for sunny spots to stay warm.
Here is Tyler checking out another burned out tree along the trail This one you could walk through. Very resilient trees.
The trail crosses an area that can be marshy in the winter/spring. There are some boardwalks wrapped with wire to keep you elevated from the muck. This time of year it isn't damp at all, but still fun to walk on.
Here is a section where the trail has you on stumps. I liked the effect of using stumps to elevate the trail out of the softer ground.
Eventually you will come to another trail junction that you will stay right at to go onto the Canyon Trail. If you go left you head to the Butano Fire Road. Here is another example of the trail conditions (I think prior to the junction).
After the junction you will ascend to cross a "dessert" section. It was much warmer and also provided some views of the canyon. There are a couple of these open sections along the way. The trail gets windier now as you weave your way into and out of the different drainages in the area.
Here is the view. You can't see the ocean but you can tell there is some coast influence on the weather with the fog bank hanging out there.
Here is the largest puddle I saw on our trek. While the pool of water had a little trickle of water coming into it, I could not see a measurable amount leaving it. What this trip told me is to make sure to carry water this time of year.
Make a left at this
junction toward the Trail Camp. It is labeled Indian Trail on map. I just
remember the other sign post said Olmo Fire Road and that was not where
I wanted to head. You can see Tyler ready to see camp soon.
After we managed to get the fire under control (so no more active flames) we decided to try to get word to a ranger. Unfortunately the cell coverage is poor out here. I had fluctuating coverage but never enough to make a phone call. I did have enough to send texts and receive them with a long delay (up to 30 minutes of me turning my phone in and out of airplane mode to gain signal again). Since I didn't have a ranger's cell number I text my wife what was going on and asked that she call the ranger. I am in the habit of leaving the local ranger's number at home with map of the likely route we are traveling. She was able to pass word to the ranger and let me know that one would come check it out. We had dinner and kept an eye on the log, which mainly sizzled with just a little occasional smoke.
Two friendly rangers arrived with water to put out "the log". They had bought 5 gallons of water as they envisioned a much smaller log ( If I have to report a fire in the future I will give dimensions). The three of us were able to roll over the now mainly smoldering log. It turns out that 5 gallons of water on a log this size mainly angered the fire gods. The log now seemed to be making more noise and still smoldering away.
The rangers decided that it was best to call Cal Fire to come with a rig and put out the log and any remaining hot spots with some serious water. We waited about half an hour for the Cal Fire crew and they used the right size tools and a whole lot of water to make sure this thing was out. In chatting with the Captain and the rangers it seemed that there was a fire a couple nights prior from an illegal campfire that a different crew had to respond to. It is likely this fire was a result of a hotspot left from that larger fire. Here is our "firefighting" equipment (bandana over the mouth/glasses for Tyler as he as on the smoky side of the log).
Here is camp when we were having dinner I am the orange thing in the food locker. There was likely good seating at this site before the bigger fire.
Here is camp the next morning. You can see the log now all the way out and really blackened.
Close up of "the log" before we headed out (and evidence of the fire fighting digging/flooding).
We used the Butano Fire Road on the way out. It is shorter and also slightly less elevation change. It is up and mainly exposed to the abandoned landing field.
The trail bisects the landing field. This is the view to the south. It was already warming up that day, so we kept moving.
The next section goes downhill with more cover. There is a mixture of sunny/shady sections now to an unnamed junction which you stay right at. This image is one of the shady sections.
Continue downhill to the next junction with the Jackson Flats Trail. We stayed right on the fire road. Trail continues descent and with some good shade now. Here is image of Jackson Flats trail marker.
Here is the trail marker (and Tyler) for the Mill Ox Trail. This trail is a steep downhill single track to the four-way junction with Jackson Flats Trail.
Another shot of the Mill Ox Trail. We took a right at the four-way junction and were back at the car before we knew it. This was a great trip (with a little extra excitement). If you are not opposed to carrying water add this one to your list. I am going to try to make a point of exploring the actual campground one time I am out here. It seems to get good reviews. Scroll down for the map/profile.
is the profile for day one. I ended up walking a couple of the sites with
Tyler before settling on site #1, so there may be a little extra mileage
because of that. We used the Jackson Flats Trail, Canyon Trail and Indian
Trail to Camp.