Explore Summer 2018 - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Summer 2018 Map
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backpacking
1 month ago

We started at Castle Rock instead of Saratoga Gap. This was highly recommended by the rangers and afforded us beautiful scenic views on Day 1 until meeting up with the traditional trail which mostly follows the highway for the first day.

Day 1: Starting from Castle Rock, hiked 9.5 miles to Waterman Gap Camp. Super remote, but had a bathroom and water spout so it was perfect. Campsite 1 is the best!
Day 2: Hiked another 9/10 miles to Jay Camp in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. There are facilities here and it is not as remote but still great.
Day 3: The last ~ 10 miles take you back to Waddell Beach. A much recommended detour visits Berry Creek Falls. We actually ended this night at a beach in Davenport at the main stoplight across the highway from the restaurants. There were fire pits for a bonfire and we stayed the night on the beach. This was actually our favorite night.

The trail is closer to 30 miles than 25. We parked one car at Waddell Beach and another at Castle Rock since there is NO SHUTTLE and none of us had phone service either. The start and end points are roughly one hour away from each other driving.

WEATHER was GREAT, btw. We slept half in our bags as we had really warm nights even now in mid-October. Overall a great trip and I highly recommend it for this time of year when it is really cold elsewhere.

backpacking
1 month ago

Did it in one day, starting at Hwy 9 and 35 , finishing at Waddell Beach. Its around 29-30miles, not 25. Took us 9.5hrs excluding 2 breaks to eat and tape up our feet. Would have done it in 2 days but Big Basin is reservation only and books 2 months in advance so book early.

This trail is great for running and hiking. It took me just over 3 hours to complete, and it was well worth it. Well maintained trails in beautiful forests and redwood groves in the lower loop, and more challenging rocky terrain with beautiful views in the upper loop. Bring plenty of water and download the map ahead of time!

Completed the trail in 2 nights & 3 days. 1st day hiking was harder than the other 2 days. Basin was crowded.

Tip: A couple people thought to break in their shoes on this trail = lots of blisters. Also, bring poles if you have bad knees = lots of downhill.

backpacking
2 months ago

Started at Castle Rock HQ, ended at Waddell Beach and loved every minute of this hike. Camped at Waterman Gap and then Jay camp and both were in good shape and nice. Thanks to our awesome state park rangers, staff and volunteers! Definitely would do this again.

trail running
2 months ago

Super fun. Ran skyline to sea marathon with Pacific Coast Trail Runs. Very fun event. Highly recommend.

Did 11 miles out and back since I couldn’t get a ride home from the beach. Downhill helps but there are some climbs for sure. Take plenty of water.

backpacking
4 months ago

Perfect Beginner Backpacker 3-Day Trip.

Don’t camp in your car the night before hitting the trail. Ranger Rick didn’t like that at all. Otherwise the trail follows a highway for the first two days. The second day you stop by Big Basin HQ where you can reload on any food or gear you may need. Even have showers. Third day you leave the highway sounds and follow a creek that leads to the ocean. This is the most rewarding and beautiful day. (Camped at Waterman Gap and Jay Camp)

Apparently the shuttle no longer exists. We hitchhiked to downtown Santa Cruz and then 50$ Uber’d to our car at Castle Rock State Park.

Weather was never permitting long sleeves, even at night. The shade under the tree groves was perfect, no chance of getting sunburned. Mosquitoes were heavy though and had to remain in our tents any time we weren’t moving.

Nice shade throughout. Beautiful change in climate and landscape between Sanborn and Castle Rock. Very hard hike but one of my favorites. Exhausted at the end of it.

hiking
4 months ago

Great workout, good steady climb, with the majority of the hike thankfully in the shade. Went on a hot day so the sun was brutal in the exposed sections. We took the Loghry Woods trail instead of the service road and it was shaded and scenic. Took about 3-3.5 hours with a few breaks.

Did this again on weekend of 6-29-18. Has become my early season Sierra stretch out. Really nice and bugs not bad. No trail hassle with deadfalls, but make sure you get into your trail camps early to get a decent pitch area. Not a solitude destination with road noise and weekend campers at Big Basin, but a great trek nonetheless.

We hiked twice in the last two weeks. First time we stopped at Skyline, because the mist was getting heavier; The second time we were sort of lost as the sign wasn’t quite clear after Skyline. There were many bugs flying around and it was not pleasant at all. We hiked 14.5 miles but only gained 2700 ft of elevation. We liked the first part, the bugs could be due to the hot and humidity.

Did this with 3 of my family members and a friend, decided to cut a mile off the hike by going down a "equestrian trail" what a mistake. As we got to the bottom sign reads not advised for hikers. this is mostly a downhill hike all the way. Very hard on the knees. Got to the point I thanked God for any up hill parts of the hike. Beautiful scenery. I say go for it. I am 55 years old.

hiking
5 months ago

Another good hike to keep a 60 year old healthy. Plenty of shade but can work up a good sweat on a hot day. Would love to try this again after a spring rain.

My husband, 11 year old son, and myself tackled this one last summer. It was our first through hike. The trees were enormous and we found the scenery inspiring. the camp grounds were easy to find and well maintained. We had no problem refilling water bottles at the camp sites. At the end there was a moment of of wonder and achievement as we caught site of the ocean.

I just wish there had been an easier way to find the trailhead and some way to call a shuttle at the end as we had no cell reception and had family “guessing “ when to pick us up.

A friend and I walked from Castle Rock to Big Basin. We certainly could have finished at Waddell Beach in one day. There is day parking available throughout the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and you can pick up the trail in various spots. This is a fairly easy, uneventful trail. We saw a deer and a turkey, felt (!) loads of mosquitos and heard the gunshots. All in, I’m disappointed to say that this is my least favorite trail in the Bay Area. It lacks gorgeous views throughout most of the trail and the logistics are cumbersome. Still if you want to log 30+ miles and end up in the beach, here are a few tips: call the Big Basin headquarters and check for trail closures the day before and aim for a cool day as the trail can get unbearably hot. And do NOT rely on a cellphone connection to call a Uber/Lyft, taxi or friend.

backpacking
5 months ago

I'd give this hike 2.5 stars, so I'm being generous rounding up to 3 stars.
I don't typically write reviews, but I felt indebted since I often use AllTrails, and I wished someone had told me what I'm about to write -- so hopefully what I write can serve as value for someone in the future.

We backpacked this trail in 2 days, spending 1 night at Jay Camp (near Big Basin HQ).
As most have commented, it's more popular to backpack over 3 days, and I didn't see any comments regarding 2 days, so that's my purpose for posting in detail.

Firstly, especially important for backpackers, unless you're getting dropped off, you can't start at Saratoga Gap, you'll need to start at Castle Rock (for parking a car) which will add additional mileage (~3 to 5, depending on which trails you take to meet up with Skyline-to-Sea).
We didn't know about the extra distance, and the popularly noted first day hike to Waterman Camp is only ~8 miles, which felt short for one day, hence our decision to try to squeeze the more popular Day 1 & Day 2 hikes into just one Day.
Also, a significant portion of this hike is along the side of the highway (though not directly on the highway, you can clearly see and hear the cars zooming by and you're often walking along side peoples private property and houses) which I find to be a huge drawback and is why I'm subtracting at least 1 stars from the rating. You can take some alternative trails, as we did, to minimize the portion along the side of the highway, but this adds more distance to the total hike and you'll still be spending a significant amount of time along the highway regardless.
All in all, it took us over 20 miles to backpack from Castle Rock to Jay Camp, which is a lot longer than the estimated 15 miles we had in mind, and this can be an extremely tolling addition, especially when carrying 50lb backpacks.
We also found that the trails weren't always clearly marked and the trail markers present were few and far between, so you're often unsure how much distance is remaining and you also can sometimes get confused and question if you're on the right trail. This fact is another reason why I'm subtracting a star.

In summary, I found the best part of the trip to be the first few miles starting in Castle Rock to the High Way (taking as many alternative routs to avoid getting to high way quickly) as well as the last part of the trip from Jay Camp / Big Basin HQ to the Waddell Beach.

If done again, I would simply do an out&back from from Waddell Beach to Jay Camp / Big Basin HQ OR an out&back from Castle Rock to Waterman Camp instead of doing the Skyline-to-Sea.
Other downside (which effects my rating) that I want to note are; from Castle Rock to Waterman Camp you hike near a gun club and hear a lot of gunfire which is disheartening when trying to enjoy the sounds of nature and, as other folks have noted and I feel honor bound to repeat, Big Basin HQ is very popular and crowded with tourist, so it can get loud and not as relaxing to camp and enjoy the sounds of nature.

hiking
6 months ago

I hiked this trail on the weekend from the Saratoga Gap parking lot to Waddell Beach. I did it in one day, starting at 8:30am and finishing around 4:30pm with an average pace of about 20min per mile. This was a comfortable pace for me since most of the time it's downhill. At 8:30am, the parking lot was already 50% full, so come early! At Waddell Beach you'll have full cell phone reception with Verizon but non with AT&T. So factor that in in case you need to organize a ride back up.

Good hike even in hot weather as 80% of it is in the shade. We really enjoyed the workout and the views. Not crowded at all. Definitely recommend for trail running and for local summer hiking. It took us 6 hours to complete. Download the map - it gets confusing sometimes.

great hike

hiking
6 months ago

The summit rock section is currently closed off, but there's a detour on the map that cuts out that section and keeps it similar in length.

Primarily shaded by trees that keep you cool during your hike. There are many plants that brush your legs as you walk by, so consider long pants over shorts.

Many beautiful views and rivers that it cuts through, highly recommended hike!

backpacking
7 months ago

What a visually stunning hike! One of the most beautiful old growth redwood forests I've had the pleasure of hiking through. From about 2 miles before Big Basin Headquarters and all the way to 1 mile from Berry Creek Falls, are pure trail magic. We hiked the Saratoga Gap route (which I recommend), and experienced stunning views within the first few miles. Diving into the old growth redwoods on day one was amazing. The next 15 miles hiking through BIg Basin is out of this world. SO gorgeous. Overall, this trail is wonderful. Great hike for beginning backpackers. We used this trail as an early season backpacking trip trip, and had a great timei


Cons:
-Hiking along Hwy 9 loses the backcountry experiance.
-Waterman Gap Camp forces you to camp quite close to neighbors.
-Camping at Big Basin Headquarters is extremely touristy.

backpacking
7 months ago

A great 3 day hike for beginners. Beware if you are looking for views of the coast and oceans, this is not a hike for you as most of the trail goes deep into the redwoods. I would recommend arriving early at Big Basin Redwood State park to get a camping spot through the lottery (if you don't have one ahead of time). Other than that, the path was very well indicated, my only complaint is that at times the trail went along Highway 9, so on weekends it's not unusual to hear cars driving by.

hiking
7 months ago

Lots of mountain bikers. Hot and dry.

It was okay, not my favorite.

backpacking
8 months ago

A great starter backpacking trip, although I recommend having one experienced backpacker in your group. We split this into 3 days and for us it was the perfect amount of time. Beautiful scenery, especially between Big Basin and Waddell Beach, where you feel like you've stepped back in time to the prehistoric days. Hips and feet were a bit sore by the end of the third day. Taking off my boots and putting my feet in the water has never felt so good!

Sanborn was pretty with all the trees but kind of boring honestly. Once we crossed over to the castle Rock side on the Saratoga gap trail it was gorgeous! Make sure you've downloaded the map because some of the intersections aren't very well marked.

backpacking
9 months ago

Did this with my husband for our anniversary a year ago. My first official backpacking trip! We took 3 days. Tips for the person picking you up, be sure they know where they are going! A breakdown in communication had us waiting almost 2 hours, there is no cell service at Waddell Beach. I would do it again and split the hike into two sections instead of three. I would also stay an additional night in Big Basin to explore that area more!

Four of us decided to do the Saratoga Gap to Waddell Beach hike all in one day. In order for us to accomplish it form sunrise to sundown we needed to run a good portion of it. We estimate we ran about 15 miles of it with on and off with breaks of course. We are all active, but none of us are long distance or avid runners. The trail is well marked and soft and moderate for the most part. It was difficult and arjurous trek to do in one day. We took 8 hours total with about 1 to 1.5 hours of breaks. We took a long break at big basin where we grabbed a quick bite at the store, then kept going until we hit the beach at 3:45pm.

I would not recommend hiking this entire trail in 1 day unless you can keep a 3.5 mph speed non stop, otherwise you are looking at a 12-14 hike to complete without running.

To the guy that complained about view and there only being redwood trees. He is right there are only redwood trees, lots of them. The only complaint I have is not of the trail itself ,but of the beach. It was very sandy and I got it all over my feet and inside my shoes way too sandy for my taste.

Enjoy!

Beautiful hike through the redwoods. We did it in a day. The only problem was it was a 30 mile hike not 25 as it is called out here. That meant our timing got messed up. We were supposed to reach the sea by sunset and instead had to hike the last part with flashlights and missed the sunset!

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