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Butano State Park

Mill Ox, Goat Hill, Año Nuevo Trails
4 miles round trip with 700-foot elevation gain

According to Native American lore, butano means “a gathering place for friendly visits.” Visitors who find out-of-the-way Butano State Park will no doubt agree with this assessment.

On the map, Butano State Park seems rather close to the bustling Santa Clara Valley, and to the Bay area. But this 2,800-acre park, tucked between sharp Santa Cruz Mountains ridges, has a remote feeling.

While most of the redwoods in the park are second-growth, some grand old first-growth specimens remain.

On lower slopes, just above Butano Creek, the walker encounters the forest primeval: redwoods, trillium, sword ferns. Moss-draped Douglas fir, tangles of blackberry bushes, and meadowland, are some of the environ¬ments visited by the park’s diverse trail system. Año Nuevo Lookout offers fine views of the elephant seal reserve, and of the San Mateo coastline.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1, turn inland on Pescadero Road, and drive 2.5 miles to Cloverdale Road. Drive south three miles to Butano State Park Road and turn left into the park. Park near the entry kiosk.

The hike: Signed Jackson Flats Trail begins just across from the park entry kiosk. The path starts out in meadowland, but soon enters redwoods.

The trail follows the north slope of the canyon cut by Little Butano Creek, and junctions with Mill Ox Trail. Take Mill Ox Trail to the right, down to the canyon bottom. Cross Butano State Park Road, and join an unmarked (except for an authorized vehicles only sign) paved road. Ascend through redwoods on this access road. The route soon junctions with Goat Hill Trail, which you follow into a mixed forest of oak and madrone. Follow this trail to the next intersection: Goat Hill Trail heads left and melts into the woods, but you take the short connector path to Olmo Fire Trail. Turn right. Olmo Fire Trail leads to a junction with Año Nuevo Trail on your left. Take this path over fir- and blackberry bush-covered slopes to Año Nuevo Viewpoint, located in a clearing. On clear days, you can look south to Año Nuevo Island.

From the viewpoint, the trail descends with enough switchbacks to make a snake dizzy, back to the park entrance.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at