Belmont to Butano to Big Basin and Back

I set out on a weekend with my brother to do a little Bay Area bike camping. The route we took was Belmont to San Gregorio, via Old La Honda Road. In San Gregorio the general store provides live music on the weekends, so we swung in before riding over to Pescadero via Stage Road. This is a great little section, dishing up a couple of small climbs with great views. We stocked up on beer and ice and then finished the day at Butano State Park. The park has clean toilets and sinks, but no showers. They don’t have dedicated hiker-biker sites, either, but we were able to get a full site at hiker-biker price ($5/person). We shared the site with a dude named Greg, who regularly travels between Santa Rosa and Paso Robles and camps instead of getting a hotel. He was a great camp mate with whom we shared some great beers, including Pliny the Elder and Lagunitas IPA.

Day two took us from Butano State Park to a hiker-biker site in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This was a great ride, with the route to Big Basin all on fire roads. That’s right--dirt paradise away from the cars. There are several ways to make it to Big Basin. The route we took was the Butano Fire Road to Johansen Fire Road to Middle Ridge Road and, finally, dropping into camp from Gazos Creek Road.

The Butano Fire Road starts out exposed, but soon turns shady.

The first part was pretty strenuous, with 9 miles or so all uphill and gaining about 3,000 feet. The views were worth the effort, though. We crossed an old abandoned landing field and a little trail camp that has a pit toilet (just in case). After the climb, we rolled up and down Butano Fire Road, until hitting Johansen. This is when the riding got really fun, mostly downhill with a couple of short but very steep climbs to the Big Basin.

Beware! If you go on a holiday weekend be prepared to enter Disneyland. This place is popular and extremely beautiful, so it fills up. Big Basin has a general store, hot showers, laundry … basically the works. Biker spots cost $5/person and the hot showers are 25 cents per three minutes.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park hiker-biker site.

The best part about day two was that my wife Samantha and her friend Mary rode out to stay the night and finish the trip with us.

Burnt redwood tree.

Day three was Big Basin back to Belmont via Saratoga Gap and then down Skyline. It was a pretty good climb out, capping a fun weekend trip.

Getting ready to leave Big Basin.

An equipment side note: I didn’t bring along enough alcohol fuel to make four pizzas and still cook everything else we had.

So I tried out my wood stove by Vargo. It worked like a champ. I purchased the Vargo as a windscreen for the Trangia alcohol stove. They are a great combo. The best part about the Vargo is it can be used with the Trangia, fuel tablets, or straight twigs. To make the pizzas, I turned my pot set into an oven and used the non-stick pan that came with the Trangia as the pizza pan. It worked great and the pizza tasted wonderful, but the fuel was heavy.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: Stop and listen to the live music at the general store in San Gregorio if you are riding on a weekend. And don't plan on buying food at the Big Basin general store unless you have money to burn. It is pricey.

Favorite local bike shop: There are so many great shops in the Bay Area; however, due to the friendly service, great espresso, and wacky tidbits of knowledge dispensed, I'd say Rivendell Bicycle Works.

2 responses so far ↓

Julie K - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:36 AM

I enjoyed reading your trip report! I have biked through Butano Big Basin for years now, and it is only now hitting me that it would be awesome to bikepack in there from home as good gateway to bigger tours. I will check out your stove recommendations, as well. Thanks!

Dawn - Oct 1, 2014 at 8:22 PM

What a fun trip. My husband and I might have to do it some time. We live in the foothills and have had one great short overnighter from our house. We were able to ride the areas of the Sierra Foothills and Tahoe Region before it started burning. It was a great three-day tour. It is awesome when you can start and finish at your house.

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