Walnut Bottoms/Big Creek Trail
You will find a parking area on the right in front of the ranger station. There is a pay phone and a check in station for backcountry backpacking permits. Not far from the parking area is the Trail to Mt. Cammerer, but it is the steepest one of four to the lookout that I have experienced. Drive slowly on into the park and you will pass a parking area on the left for horses. Eventually, you will come to the parking area for day hikers, backpackers, and picnickers.
Big Creek Trail has a surprise in store as it begins on flat ground and then goes up steeply for about one hundred yards to join the Big Creek Trail. So, take a deep breath and hold on as you climb. Once to the top you will find an old road and you can walk two or three abreast. Here the tail is pleasant and a gentle uphill grade. Big Creek remains to the left for over two miles and the pleasant sound of the mountain stream is always heard. Horseback riders will often appear suddenly behind you, particularly on a weekend.
Big Creek Trail forms the backbone for several other trails fanning out from the ridge (order a Park Trail Map). Backcountry camping in Big Creek is limited to two sites in Walnut Bottom on Big Creek and another on Mount Sterling at the end of the Baxter Creek Trail. The Big Creek campground, on the site of the old Crestmont logging camp, has space for 12 tent sites, but no recreation vehicles. There is also a drive-in horse camp at Big Creek. Sites are $35. A maximum of four horses and six people are allowed per site. The camp is open from March 17 to November 1. For reservations, call 1-800-365-2267 (park code GRE) or visit the web site at http://reservations.nps.gov. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance.