Black Friday, Bay-Area Style: Free Entry to 49 California State Parks

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The term “Black Friday” usually conjures up images of lines wrapping around stores, cars overflowing mall parking lots, and news headlines recounting injuries caused by brawls over the last flat screen TV. For those who aren’t tempted by sales, Black Friday is often a day to hole up indoors, hide from the traffic, sleep off a lingering food coma, and rant about consumerism.

But this year, Black Friday is getting an overhaul in the Bay Area and other places, too. The outdoors community has taken on the task of reclaiming the notorious shopping day, focusing instead on getting people outside to explore the incredible natural areas in their backyards. 

Save the Redwoods League—an organization dedicated to preserving California’s iconic redwood trees and habitats—is one of the groups supporting the new vision for the day after Thanksgiving to get people out of stores and into the outdoors. Backed by a generous private donation, the organization is sponsoring free entry on Friday to California’s 49 redwood parks.

A mossy staircase on the Matt Davis Trail at Mt. Tamalpais State Park s great inspiration for a turkey-busting trail run. 
A mossy staircase on the Matt Davis Trail at Mt. Tamalpais State Park s great inspiration for a turkey-busting trail run.  Justin Watt

If you live in the Bay Area, why not throw out your shopping list and plan an outdoor adventure for Friday? S ign up online , print your free entry pass, and you're set to hit the trails in one of the many sponsored parks in the Bay Area and beyond. Free passes to parks in the immediate vicinity are going fast—if you miss out on a pass to a nearby park, visit an off-the-beaten path option to the north or south (find the full list of free parks  here .) Here, an inspiration for your Black Friday  is a starter list to inspire your planning:

1. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Just 1.5 hours south of the city, Big Basin Redwoods State Park —California’s oldest—is a great pick for a hike this Friday. Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Basin offers 80 miles of trails shaded by redwood forest. Hike the Berry Creek Falls trail for waterfalls, peaceful groves, and views all the way to the coast across the vast acreage of redwoods.

2. Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Berry Creek Falls is one highlight of Big Basin State Park. 
Berry Creek Falls is one highlight of Big Basin State Park.  Redwood Hikes

Across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, redwoods, oak forests, and grassy fields flank the shoulders of 2,571-foot Mount Tamalpais, the tallest peak in the area. Mt. Tam State Park —as it is locally known—is a warren of beautiful trails with varied scenery. From Pantoll Ranger Station, hike the Matt Davis Trail toward Stinson Beach, or explore the tumbling waterfalls along the Steep Ravine trail.

3. Butano State Park

Sunsets from a beach near Pescadero are far more serene than big-box store sales. 
Sunsets from a beach near Pescadero are far more serene than big-box store sales.  PescaderoCA

Just past the sleepy seaside town of Pescadero, Butano State Park  is full of towering redwoods and scenic hiking trails through canyons and uplands of oak forest, riparian habitat, and sunny chaparral. Hike the Canyon Rim route along the edge of a canyon full of beautiful second-growth redwoods. From the fire roads, enjoy sweeping views across the Santa Cruz Mountains. Just over an hour south of San Francisco and easy to access, Butano State Park is an ideal half or full day destination. Catch the sunset at any of the classic state beaches that line Highway 1, and make a stop along the road at Highway 1 Brewing Company for a celebratory pint.

4. Van Damme State Park

Fern Canyon Trail
Fern Canyon Trail Jeff Sullivan

Only a 2.5-hour drive north of the city on Highway 1, Van Damme State Park feels a world away from the Bay Area, and you might be able to escape some of the crowds that are sure to pack local parks this Friday. Tucked in off the Mendocino Coast, the park has beach access at the mouth of Little River—popular with abalone divers and sea kayakers—and trails through lush forest. Try the Fern Canyon trail, a gentle stroll over an old Civilian Conservation Corps road lined with ferns and redwoods.

5. Russian Gulch State Park

Russian Gulch State Park offers a beautiful contrast to the insanity of Black Friday sales. 
Russian Gulch State Park offers a beautiful contrast to the insanity of Black Friday sales.  Larry White

Slightly further afield, Russian Gulch State Park is another top pick in Mendocino County that will be free this Friday. Hike the North trail to a 36-foot waterfall, or enjoy fishing and tide-pooling along the Park’s rugged coastline. Devil’s Punchbowl, a collapsed sea cave that fills with churning water, is another highlight at Russian Gulch.

Regardless of where you go—and even if all you can manage is a stroll around your neighborhood park—join thousands of people around the country in spending this November 27 outside.

 

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