Redwoods may be stunning, oaks sturdy and strong, but Monterey pines, well, they’re pure California. The Monterey pine only grows naturally in four forests worldwide, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park’s Rancho Del Oso unit is the northernmost of them. See these beauties—a popular Christmas tree choice—up close on an easygoing bike and hike trail. Starting from Highway 1’s beachfront Waddell Creek staging area, cruise for the first mile through a forest of nearly exclusive Monterey pines, distinguished by their extra-long needles and pinecones that grow right on the branch. Salty sea breezes have sculpted the pines into interesting shapes and sizes. The mostly flat and wide dirt trail meanders alongside Waddell Creek for 5.5 miles (with a brief section of singletrack switchbacks). Farther inland, the Monterey pines lessen and the Douglas firs and redwoods increase. Take your time riding through the forest, where pumpkin-colored leaves and pine needles cover the trail. After 5.5 miles, park your bike (bring a lock) and take a .6-mile detour to Berry Creek Falls—a 70-foot stunner that flows year-round.
Drive about 30 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy. 1, going past Año Nuevo State Reserve. Park at the Big Basin Redwoods/Waddell Creek parking lot. The dirt fire road starts on the eastern side of Hwy. 1. Bike the trail (aka Skyline to Sea Trail) for 5.5 miles. Park and lock your bike and hike .6-mile back to Berry Creek Falls. No dogs.