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Overview: Shaded, mostly flat hike through towering redwood trees along Little Butano Creek.
Distance: The featured map route is 1.3 miles round trip, but you can make it shorter or longer depending on your mini hiker’s age.
Elevation change: Minimal
Hiking time: Appx. 1 hour, but it would be easy to make it shorter or longer, and varies depending on your child’s age. Frequent banana slug sightings and playing by the creek may add to the total “hike” time.
Season: All year (camping April to November)
Getting there: From Half Moon Bay, drive south on Highway 1 for about 20 minutes. Turn left onto Pescadero Creek Road. Pass through downtown Pescadero and make a right onto Cloverdale Road. Drive 4.3 miles then turn left into Butano State Park. Pay for parking at the kiosk, then I suggest parking near the Olomo Fire Road and walking to the Little Butano Creek trailhead.
Parking lot address: Click here for directions
Managing agency: California State Parks
Our region’s open space lands provide such a valuable escape from our fast-paced, technology dependent lives, and give us a place to unplug, reflect and recharge. Personally, I feel more alive, hopeful and happy after spending time in nature, and I particularly love sharing the outdoors with my 2-year-old son!
One of our favorite places to visit is Butano State Park in Pescadero, what I’d call a “hidden gem” and the perfect destination if you prefer to avoid the crowds of the larger nearby redwood parks. The Little Butano Creek Trail is great for kids of all ages. It’s almost entirely flat and mostly shaded, so the terrain is easy for little hiker legs (and you’re less likely to have to carry them).
The trail runs parallel to the creek so the babbling sound of water adds to the peaceful and refreshing setting. Beautiful dappled rays of sunlight peer through the towering trees. A lush understory of ferns and redwood sorrel carpet the forest floor. Redwood sorrel, trillium and other wildflowers bloom in the spring.
Doesn’t this all sound super dreamy? Well it is!
It’s also a particularly fun spot for kids. Butano is home to lots of banana slugs, and spotting these bright yellow forest dwellers is exciting. My son and I have fun counting how many we can find along the trail, and when he’s older I look forward to teaching him the banana slug song that I learned as a child. On a wet day, you’re also likely to spot newts! Keep your eyes out while hiking to make sure you don’t miss, or step on, these slow crawling well-camouflaged critters, and also peek in the creek if you don’t find them on the trail (oh, and please don’t touch the newts).
In addition to spotting forest critters, my son loves what we call “redwood face paint.” Water + ash from the hollowed-out caverns of trees or stumps that have been burned by fire = redwood face paint!
For older kids, make sure you highlight that redwood trees are the tallest living things on our planet and can live for over 2,500 years! Counting rings on fallen trees is fun and educational, and so is this Redwood Bingo card.
The park is also home to rare calypso orchids which bloom between February and April. We did not spot any of these elusive purple flowers on our recent hike along Little Butano Creek Trail, but we plan to go back next weekend.
Butano has a nice picnic area with BBQs near the park entrance. On your way in to the park, I suggest stopping in Pescadero at Arcangeli Market to grab some fresh artichoke and herb bread (so fresh it will still be hot) and Harley Farms for goat cheese. This time of year is a particularly adorable time to visit Harley Farms due to all the baby goats, and a new wave of baby goats will be born in April!
On your way out, another fun Pescadero stop is Duarte’s for soup and pie. I recommend their famous “half and half” artichoke and green chili soup, and olallieberry pie, a la mode of course. Your State Park parking pass is good for the whole day, so you can also stop by a local State Beach. March through May is a great time for whale watching, particularly at Pescadero State Beach.
In 2000, POST transferred 903 acres of the Cloverdale Coastal Ranches property to Butano State Park for permanent management and protection.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.