The land within the park’s boundaries is among the most historic in Los Gatos. The grantees of the “Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos”, Jose Hernandez and Sebastian Peralta, constructed an adobe house on what is now one of the park’s lawns. It was the first structure built in the area.
Big Basin Redwoods
Lush coast redwood forest of Big Basin
Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park, established in 1902, earning its designation as a California Historical Landmark. Its original 3,800 acres (15 km2) have been increased over the years to over 18,000 acres (73 km2). It is part of the Northern California coastal forests ecoregion and is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. It contains 10,800 acres (44 km2) of old-growth forestas well as recovering redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 600 m (2,000 ft). The climate ranges from foggy and damp near the ocean to sunny, warm ridge tops.
The park has over 130 km (81 mi) of trails. Some of these trails link Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range. The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail threads its way through the park along Waddell Creek to Waddell Beach and the adjacent Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve, a freshwater marsh.
The park has a large number of waterfalls, a wide variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes), many animals (deer, raccoons, an occasional bobcat) and abundant bird life – including Steller’s jays, egrets, herons and acorn woodpeckers.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Much of the park is shaded by temperate-zone trees such as red maple, American sweetgum, several species of hickory and oak, and one of the southernmost natural populations of tulip tree. Many subtropical plants are also present with cabbage palmetto prominent among them. The forests are supported by poorly drained soils which have developed from marine sands and clays. The topsoils are usually dark gray or black fine sands which are acidic (slightly so in some cases). The gray or brownish gray subsoils range in texture from sand to sandy clay, and are less acid than the topsoils. Some are moderately alkaline with free calcium carbonate.
The park’s largest animals are alligator, white-tailed deer and possibly black bear. Many species of smaller animals also occur.