Big Basin is closed indefinitely due to the August 2020 lightning fire; see the Big Basin page for details.
Sunset Trail Camp’s prime location by the scenic chain of Berry Creek waterfalls and on several outstanding hiking routes has made it the most popular backcountry campground in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s an attractive camp, but it’s really busy in the summer and the sites are close together, so when it’s full it can feel like a bit of a zoo.
The camp is one of the few backcountry camps in the Santa Cruz Mountains that’s really in the backcountry; there isn’t any traffic or development anywhere near the camp.
The most popular ways to reach the camp are:
From the camp, a clear unofficial trail climbs to the Henry Creek Trail and some great views over the redwood-carpeted hills of Big Basin.
The campsites are arranged in two clusters. The upper camp is by far the nicest-looking, a clump of 6 close-packed sites in an attractive grove of small redwood and fir trees. The sites seem to be numbered in order of how nice they are. Site 1 is the best; it’s good-sized and at the end of the cluster, with plenty of nice level space for two tents. Sites 2 and 3 are pretty nice as well, they’re just in the middle of the cluster. Site 4 and 5 are really small, with only enough room for one tent. Site 6 is a little claustrophobic since it’s hemmed in by dense huckleberry shrubs; it also gets flooded when it rains. None of the sites has a lot of privacy.
75 yards down the hill is the lower camp, which has four more sites clustered around a wide spot in a dirt road. Since the sites are all right on the road they don’t have as much of a wilderness feel, and even less privacy, than the upper camp. And even though it’s only a few yards from the upper camp, the woods aren’t as attractive. On the other hand, there are fewer campsites here and they’re a little further apart.
The campground itself dosn’t have any water; water can be filtered from nearby West Berry Creek, which flows year-round. The camp is open all year, but in the winter it’s not maintained, so you have to pack your trash out. There’s one outhouse for the upper camp and two for the lower camp. Like all the backcountry campgrounds, fires are not allowed, although you can use backpack stoves.
© 2018 David Baselt