Did a morning hike to get myself ready for the school year- got out at ten after an hour long drive. Very few cars in the lot. Since we arrived a little behind schedule, we decided to do a reverse loop, with the switchback climb primary.
The switchback climb ends 2.2 miles after the trailhead. Most of the climb is a strenuous elevation gain with very few breaks from the incline. There are, however, trail junctions at which you can take a momentary break. To get a good workout, we completed the uphill climb in 45 minutes. We were drenched in sweat by the time we reached the upper junction.
It wasn't worth going up to Skyline. Trying to get back by 11:30, we turned and started the downhill. The decline had many more unguarded spots (i.e no shade) and a few great views. All of the creeks by the top of the hike are, unfortunately, dried out this time of year.
Most of the decline is a fire road, but the first third of the decline is somewhat narrow and you need to be attentive to the ridges both above and below you. The trail eventually opens up and you'll see more hikers.
The trail is a wonderful, strenuous elevation gain followed by an equally steep, but exponentially easier, descent that offers great views and the option to follow a creek (only recommend that in the winter) to finish the hike.
The base has both stagnant and rushing water. The small creek by the trailhead is clean enough to drink from without purifying (though I don't recommend that!) along with picnic benches. We saw a camp of 15-20 four year olds as we finished the hike (11:00 camp) so beware of that.
In conclusion, this trail is as good as it gets around here! Bonus: dogs are allowed!
Hiked it Sunday July 3rd. First two thirds okay but not very challenging. Last third was unimpressive - On paved road with little shade. If you like paved road, you will like this section. We did not. Also, the local gun club provided a constant barrage of gunfire for the background soundtrack. Not a bird to be heard.
The loop is actually a triangle formed by 3 trails: down Saratoga Toll Road Trail - Travertine Springs Trail - up on Saratoga Gap Trail. The latter includes a portion on asphalt road. It's a little confusing so better take a map. Most of it is shaded by trees and with nice elevation changes. Very few people too. Great time !
mark m. on Big Basin and Castle Rock Loop
We had a great time hiking the trail, but started to late. It was hot too. Bring lots of water.
I made the mistake of not knowing my start location. We ended up hiking all the way around the park in a big Loop. The map does not do a good job of showing you where you are, so I recommend using an app with the maps installed on it. It was a fantastic trip, with a waterfall. Hiking in the woods we saw a massive redwood tree. Not many people were on this part of the trail I was surprised, it was by far the largest tree in the part.