Merry Colorful State Park

Hiking Mill Ox Loop in Butano State Park

Red, green, and blue are just a few of the holiday hues. Get your Christmas colors and some solitude on a 5-mile (round-trip) hike in Butano State Park on the San Mateo Coast. The Mill Ox Loop has you walking through forests thick with redwood trees, hiking up to panoramic blue ocean views, and seeing green among its lush fern groves. This is a moderate hike with diverse beauty.

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 the sunshine and views of the long Coast Ranges. Loop back to the starting point on Jackson Flats Trail, which drops back into the canyon and follows the gently flowing creek. After rains this trail becomes heavily populated by newts, so watch your step, and wish them a Happy Newt Year.

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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 seriously tasty Mexican food.

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.; turn right. Go 4.2 miles to the entrance of Butano State Park. Ask for a map. After the entrance, look on the left side for a sign for Mill Ox Trail—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 go right. Follow this to Jackson Flats Trail and go right, which takes you back to the Mill Ox Trail. No dogs.

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