Address: 7850 Pole Line Rd, Watsonville, CA 95076 Parking: $6 per vehicle at entrance. You can park for free at the Sprig Lake day use area, but it’s quite a hike up to the main trails. Hours: 8 A.M. to sunset Type: Hike (moderate)/ camp Regulations: Dogs allowed on-leash Best time to visit: Trails are beautiful after a rain because creeks transverse many trails, but the park is nice anytime of year. Don't miss: The White Fallow Deer pen at the summit
Description: This is a unique park with beautiful trails, great amenities, and it’s a bonus that it’s rarely crowded. It features many miles of hiking trails that wind down through the valley of redwood groves as well as up to the summit. The majority of the trails are shaded, and this area stays cooler than some of the hotter cities surrounding it. During winter the trails are magical, as many of the trails cross or run alongside creeks, but these dry up during summer. During a day hike you can check out some of the largest redwoods imaginable, stop for a panoramic view stretching to Monterey, and also get up close to some exotic white deer. After a long hike to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with viewing the last of the White Fallow Deer, given as a gift to Henry Miller from William Randolph Hearst in 1934. These have been separated to prevent breeding, so see them while you can, because they will be gone soon. Many of the trails have switchbacks and some steep climbs, but it's definitely worth the hike to the summit. However, if you're looking for a short, easy hike, the 0.5 mile Giant Twins Trail is beautiful and culminates at two huge old-growth redwoods.
This is also a great park for camping because it’s affordable, reservations are often available on short notice, and it has great amenities. Campsites are $30 per night (parking included), and most of them are quite large, with room to park 2 cars, space for a few tents, and each includes a fire pit, a picnic table, and a large animal-proof food storage cabinet. Each group of campsites has a ground faucet with running water for drinking and cleaning. There are also clean restrooms stocked with toilet paper, featuring auto-flush toilets, sinks with running water and soap. Free showers are available near the park entrance, so unless you’re at a group campsite, you may have to drive from your individual campsite. The showers are nice, each stall is individually enclosed, and they have hot water, which I was surprised to find was actually a little too hot. Rangers try to enforce quiet hours, so even if there’s a large group at a campsite, there shouldn’t be any problems. The park website has pictures of every campsite, so you can pick the specific one you would like to reserve. They also have Yurts available for rental.