Here’s the thing about hiking in Butano: variety! Variety in length, variety in difficulty, and variety in surroundings . For someone who hikes frequently and has traveled a bit out of the way to find the best trails, the hikes in this park probably won’t be the most memorable (except possibly for the “most newts seen” category in the right season). If I were not interested in camping at Butano, I don’t think I would have driven and paid for the trails ($10 entrance fee which can get you into other parks that day). The trees aren’t the biggest and the views aren’t the grandest; it is, however, just plain nice. Hiking here is a good time. There is a mess of trails which can be combined to form different length treks, and even the shortest hike I did had changes in scenery. I really appreciate variety in terrain. I was not bored.The first of the two hikes I did was Six Bridges Trail. This trail was just over 1 mile between the campground and the visitor center at the entrance. Seemed to match Butano’s child friendly feel that I got from the campground. It did indeed have six tiny bridges, and also had educational tags attached to many of the native plants. According to the photos on these tags, this trail would have looked very different when in bloom in spring/summer than when I visited in fall. Though it was short, the trail did rise and fall a little, and went from redwoods, past a bat habitat where I could actually hear and feel that we were only a few miles from the ocean, and through a marsh area. I was excited to find the unexpected bat habitat sign and since we were squeezing the hike in at dusk, we waiting a few minutes at the viewing bench to see if they’d emerge. No such luck; oh well. The trail ended at the entrance parking and visitor center which is also educational, documenting the local wildlife visitors might see. I liked this trail and would recommend putting into a larger loop when hiking here.
We ended up doing 7.6 miles for our longer hike. There were a number of opportunities to loop back earlier and if we had started on Jackson Flats trail (parallels Butano Creek) to Canyon trail, the loop would have around 11 miles. For the featured hike, however, we followed this path:
Following the road down from the campground, the Little Butano Creek trailhead was clearly visible (on some maps it has grown to just be called Butano Creek trail). Logically, this is a nice creek-side trail, damp and forested. I felt the need to hop down to the creek frequently to look for newts. Evidently they can be plentiful in Feb, but I couldn’t find a single one near the creek in Nov. This trail ends by doing a fairly sharp 180 deg turn onto a fire road, the only option for a little ways.
Leaving the fire road as soon as possible, we headed up Goat Hill trail. The ascent was obvious but not too strenuous. The trail is still forested but quickly becomes much brighter and the trees change. One section of trees appeared barren and dead but I saw no sign of fire or weather damage. It was interesting and eerie (mystery still unsolved). Another fern filled section was so Jurassic that Paul was “waiting for a velociraptor to jump out” as we passed through. We ignored several trail intersections on Goat Hill, waiting for Año Nuevo trail. On Año Nuevo trail, we snaked quickly back down the elevation we’d gained. Reversing this hike would add a challenge. The elevation change on Año Nuevo is much steeper and the climbing hikers we past looked tired! A couple openings on this trail gave the first vista views of the day. This trail ended at the entrance parking lot.
Across the lot, we headed onto a short section of Jackson Flats trail. Guess what? Yup, pretty flat! At least while I was on it. The entire Jackson Flats trail covers the span of Butano Creek trail and then some, but we took it only from the visitor center to the intersection with Ox Mill on which we cut back to the road. Returning to the campground on the road, we finally found a newt! All that searching near the water and here he was on the asphalt. We corralled him off the road in the direction he was headed before finishing the hike. Glad I got to see at least one little guy!
Overall, Butano is a tranquil hiking destination. I definitely recommend camping overnight, or squeezing another park (like Año Nuevo) into the day for the best experience.
Here are my details from Runkeeper: