Butano State Park has an impressive range of ecosystems -- coast redwood, coastal scrub, evergreen forest -- and this 14-mile hike goes through all of them.
It starts out in the valley at the park's entrance, then climbs to a series of ridges that ring a deep canyon running along the center of the park.
Highlight of this hike is the Ray Linder Memorial Trail, which passes through a serene grove of redwoods on the far northeast edge of the park. It then returns along a ridge line, descends for awhile back into a redwood forest, returns to the ridge once more, then finally takes one steep, zigzagging descent to the starting point.
Trails used: Jackson Flats Trail > Butano Creek Trail Loop > Butano Fire Road > Ray Linder Memorial Trail > Olmo Fire Road > Doe Ridge Trail > Goat Hill Trail > Olmo Fire Road > Ano Nuevo Trail.
You can slice about three miles off this hike by skipping the Butano Creek Trail Loop, but you'll miss one of the prettiest sections of the park.
This is a great all-season park: it's not far from the Pacific Ocean so it doesn't get terribly hot in the summer; that also means it can be colder than expected the rest of the year.
Springtime wildflower season is also a great time to come.
Dress in layers -- it can be quite chilly at the start of the hike but warm on the parks' high ridges.
Call the park to make sure it's open before you go.
Hours: Call the park
Parking fee: $10/vehicle
Driving directions: From San Jose, take Highway 92 west to Half Moon Bay and head south on Highway 1 for 15 miles. Turn left on Pescadero Creek Road, go 2.5 miles to Cloverdale Road, turn right and go 4.3 miles to the park entrance.
From San Francisco, take Highway 1 south through Pacifica; from Half Moon Bay, follow the directions above.