Rancho del Oso

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Rancho del Oso

Waddell Creek, CA
(831) 427-2288
Big Basin - Rancho del Oso

Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center

  • 3600 Highway 1, entrance road is immediately on the south side of Waddell Creek.
  • Hours: weekends noon to 4:00 PM
  • Exhibits of area cultural and natural history
  • Gift shop
  • Deck overlooking Waddell Valley and Pacific Ocean
  • Operated in partnership with the
    Waddell Creek Association


  • Bird watching
  • Hiking
  • Educational programs
  • Nature trails


  • No dogs

Theodore J. Hoover
Natural Preserve

  • 23 acres of wetland habitat
  • Home to numerous threatened wetland species
  • Watch for feral pigs, bullfrogs, and red foxes
  • A wide variety of birds - kingfishers, ducks, sparrows, Swainson's Thrush, warblers, and wrens

Books and

Rancho del Oso map, Big Basin State Park, Santa Cruz County, CA

History of Rancho del Oso

William Waddell, for whom the creek and valley are named, began logging in the area in the mid-1860s. He erected a mill upstream and a tramway to haul lumber from the mill to the beach. William was killed by a grizzly bear in 1875, marking the end of the timber operation.

After William's death farming and ranching became the main activities along Waddell Creek. In 1912 Theodore J. Hoover, brother of President Hoover and the Dean of Engineering at Stanford University, purchased the majority of the land in the valley and built a large ranch house for his family.

California State Parks took possession of the majority of Rancho del Oso in 1977 and soon combined it with Big Basin Redwoods State Park to create a continuous park connecting the famous redwoods and the ocean.

Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve, Santa Cruz County, CA

Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve

Rancho del Oso Hikes and Events

Throughout the year docents at Rancho del Oso's Nature and History Center provide guided nature hikes and other events for the public. Examples of these events are shown below. Check the Big Basin Redwoods State Park website for a current list dates and times for events: Rancho del Oso, or call (831) 427-2288 on weekends for more information.

Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA

Wildflower Hike

Join a Rancho del Oso docent on a 4-mile hike up the Waddell Valley to view the variety of wildflowers in bloom. Bring water, lunch, and perhaps your camera.

Fireside Stories

Enjoy a 30-minute program gathered around the fireplace at the Nature and History Center. Aimed at children 3 years and older. Sing, pretend, and explore with activities.

Berry Creek Falls Hike

Join in a docent led hike to the beautiful Berry Creek Falls deep in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The hike is 7 miles each way. Most of the outing is along fairly level road and trail. The all-day outing begins at 10:00 AM at the ranger station, 1 mile beyond the gate on the road directly across from Waddell Beach parking lot.

Other Big Basin Recreation Opportunities

Naturalist Led Backpacking Adventures

A series of naturalist-led backpacking trips are planned for 2016, including hikes from Castle Rock to Waddell Beach, Portola Redwoods State Park to Slate Creek, and a Berry Creek Falls loop outing. Trips vary from 1 to 3 nights.
Big Basin Backpacking Adventures

Self-guided Nature Trail

A 1 mile long self-guided nature trail leads out from the Nature and History Center and makes a loop through a Monterey pine forest.

Marsh Trail

The 0.7-mile Marsh Trail connects the Nature and History Center with the Ranger Station. The trail crosses Waddell Creek on a seasonal bridge that is removed in the winter.

Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve  Marsh Trail, Santa Cruz County, CA

Mountain Biking

Six miles of Canyon Road are open to bicyclers. This dirt fire road follows along Waddell Creek. The somewhat rough surface is best suited to mountain bikes or bikes with wide tires. Helmets are required for young riders. Bicycles are not allowed on other roads or trails in the park.

Backpacking the Skyline to the Sea Trail

The Skyline to the Sea Trail begins at Castle Rock State Park high in the Santa Cruz Mountains and winds its way 33 miles down through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, finally emerging at Waddell Beach. The trailhead at Waddell Beach is directly across from the beach parking lot. Comprehensive maps of the trail are available at the parks.

Trail Camps are situated at several locations along the route. These camps are for single night use. The camps are closed during the winter months from November 1 through April 30. Reservations for the Trail Camps are required: (831) 338-8861.


An equestrian trail camp is located along the route, allowing riders to camp overnight with their horses. For reservations for the equestrian camp, call (831) 425-1218.

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