If you like hiking through forests thick with redwood trees, leveling out to panoramic ocean views, descending through bright green fern groves, and encountering practically no one along the way, then get to Butano State Park
on the San Mateo Coast. First-time visitors should try the 5-mile Mill Ox Loop—watching out for slow-moving newts! This moderate hike packs a diverse geographical beauty that shows why the Native Americans were attracted to this land hundreds of years ago. After crossing Little Butano Creek, the shaded trail makes a short zigzag up to Butano Fire Road. Make a right and continue along the fire road, soaking in views of the long Coastal Range. Loop back to the starting point on Jackson Flats Trail, which drops back into the canyon and follows the gently flowing creek through dense lush ferns. Ahh, solitude. Butanoful.
TIP: Fill your tanks at the only gas station in Pescadero. Don’t let the understated surroundings fool you—inside the gas station, Taqueria Los Amigos serves some tasty combo plates of tacos, beans and rice.
Butano State Park is about 22 miles south of Half Moon Bay. Go south on Hwy. 1 and turn left on Pescadero Rd. Go 2.5 miles (through town and past Taqueria Los Amigos) to Cloverdale Rd. then turn right. Go 4.2 miles to the entrance of Butano State Park. Ask for a map. After the entrance, look to the left for the Mill Ox Trail sign—it’s easy to miss and the parking lot holds only a few cars. Follow the Mill Ox Trail up to Butano Fire Road and turn right. Follow this to Jackson Flats Trail and turn right, which takes you back to the Mill Ox Trail. No dogs.