Explore the most popular Backpacking trails in Big Basin Redwoods State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

This was such a great hike! Lots of incline and decline, my hip and legs were definitely feeling the burn. Great views of the waterfalls, you can get you feet wet at the second waterfall and enjoy a snack. Dogs are not allowed on the trail which is a little bit of a bummer but still a nice cool hike!

We hiked the portion of this trail from Sunset Trail Camp to Waddell Beach as the last day of our extended Skyline to the Sea trip. It was the easiest segment of the four days, and is mostly downhill. The Sunset Trail Camp was nice, but fully occupied at our Friday night stay. There is NO water at the camp, but water can be filtered from Berry Creek within a half mile of camp. At this time of year, at least, the mosquitoes were the worst I’ve encountered anywhere. But, they were not an issue at all once we hit the trail to the coast in the morning. The Berry Creek Trail portion of this hike was awesome, and absolutely one of the most beautiful trail segments I’ve ever hiked. Coming from north to south is the ideal perspective as the falls get progressively more beautiful along the way. The entire Berry Creek Valley valley is an amazing temperate rain forest; several big trees complete the grandeur. Leaving the valley, the trail broadens to a road and is comfortable and easy. Views are nice, but not spectacular. There is great variety on the route, however, and the view of Waddell Beach from the trail is exciting. We had a great time.

20 days ago

Took this trail of the Skyline to the Sea trail to Lane Trail camp for day 2 of our trip. This trail need some maintenance. It leaves the verdant, shady, and impressive valley to climb into the much drier hills. Scrub encroaches in many places. Be aware that there is no water at the camp; bring all you need with you. Not a particularly good hike or trail given other options here.

24 days ago

Awesome hike! This was my first time hiking in this area, so the loop gave me a taste of all the different parks. Each one had its own personality. Portola was my favorite as it had this ancient forest smell to it, if that’s even a thing. And you’re rustling along on a bed of leaves throughout the park. I’d love to go back there. I would rate Big Basin 2nd and Castle Rock 3rd based on this hike. To speak to the parking comments, I discovered that there is parking along the road for the trailhead, but it’s dawn to dusk only. So parking is convenient for ppl who are knocking this one out in a day. But if you’re backpacking over 2 or 3 days, then you’ll need to park about 1/2 mile up the road at the lot where 9 & 35 intersect. It looks like you can take Skyline to the Sea from the parking lot to get to the trailhead to start this hike. I took the advice of the other reviewers and did the trail counter clockwise. I get why the original poster mapped it out clockwise because they don’t call it the “sea to skyline” trail, so you’re going with the grain of the foot traffic for that stretch. But this loop isn’t really about that trail. The biggest thing I liked about going counter clockwise is that it was more ideal for my water and sun exposure situation. You want to get the stretch to Slate Creek out of the way early so you’re not getting cooked out in the sun coming back up it in the afternoon. Except for a couple spots in Big Basin you’re going to be shaded by the forest canopy for the rest of the hike. I didn’t even worry about sunscreen for this reason. I pack pretty light, so I brought a full camel back and a throw away drink for the start. The drink I hand carried got me to the Slate Creek campsite, where I was able to dispose of it. Then my camel back lasted me from there to the Waterman Gap campsite at the 22.5 mile mark. There’s drinking water there, but the spigot and basin under it were both swarming with bees. So I put my camel back under it and filled it quickly and was able to avoid getting stung. I started around 6:30 and didn’t see anyone along the trail until I got near the Slate Creek camp site at the 6 mile mark. Then I didn’t see any other hikers for another 11 miles when I got onto the skyline to the sea trail. And even that traffic thinned out long before I got to Waterman Gap as people set out early for that hike too. My phone died with about 4 miles to go, so I wasn’t able to record the whole loop.

Amazing trip. Lots of bugs so bring bug spray.

Amazing mini-thru-hike. Campsites have running potable water, Jay Camp HQ has all the amenities and fully stocked (beers!). The third day was by far the best part of the trail through beautiful redwood groves and the highlight Berry Creek Falls. Can't wait to do it again, next time with my kids. Mosquitos were pretty brutal (July) when standing/sitting still, so bring plenty of repellent!

1 month ago

I completed this trail during the July 4th weekend. It was confusing to find the trail head at Saratoga Gap, and I almost took the wrong way. You have to cross the street after you park your car in the parking lot, and go straight, the trail head will be on your right side. The trail is relatively easy. The 1st day was the easiest, it took me 4.5 hrs to walk 6.1 miles from Saratoga Gap to Waterman Gap. The 2nd day, I think, was the most difficult one, from Waterman Gap to Jay Camp with some uphills. The last 5.2 miles on the 3rd day was mostly flat and downhill. Even though it was long (~13 miles), it was pretty easy. There were not much sceneries on the trail from Saratoga Gap to Jay Camp. I prefer the tall redwood trees in Big Basin.

How could a walk through the majestic redwoods be anything but a 5-star experience?! Could the signage have been better? Yes. But, have you ever seen great signage at a state or national park? We did the classic Skyline to the Sea hike over 3 days and 2 nights, starting at Castle Rock parking lot and ending at Waddell Beach. My wife and I both drove separate cars since there isn’t a public transit option, or a reliable taxi/Uber option from either location. After dropping off a car at Waddell we drove to Castle Rock to start the trip. Day one we hiked to Waterman Gap. The signage was pretty poor and confusing at times so think about downloading a GPS guide (we paid for All Trails pro) that works offline and talk to people on the trail if you have questions. From there we went to Jay Camp at the Big Basin headquarters. Both sites had bathrooms and potable water. The walk from Jay to Waddell Beach was incredible! So hard to put into words. Trekking through giant redwoods for hours, mostly under the shade, so much green! There were some fallen trees along the way but it was all manageable. The final 1.5 miles to Waddell Beach felt longer than it was because we were tired and the trail borders the edge of a rocky hillside. But coming around the corner to see the ocean and feel that cool breeze is worth every step. I’d highly recommend this hike to anyone with some backpacking experience. In total we probably did about 30-32 miles, but like I said the hike is easy to moderate, and the campsites have amenities to make things easier. Can’t wait to go explore the Santa Cruz Mountains again!

Just finished this 3 day backpacking trip. I give it very mixed review. The first day out of Castle Rock state park was pretty. Enjoyed the horizon view to sea and hill tops. Lots of tall coastal red woods. As you approach Waterman gap camp ground the hiking is very close to a road which ruined the outdoor experience for me. The sounds of motorcycles racing up and down made me feel as though I was next to the freeway. This may of been particularly bad because it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Second day we hiked to Big Basin headquarters (Jay camp). We practically followed the road the entire way. Passing next to homes and backyards. Once we made it to headquarters we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and pushed on to Sunset campsite. This is were it was really pretty. We passed 3 waterfalls and enjoyed a very private camping experience. Saw a bunch of banana slugs. Last day headed out to Waddel beach. It was a beautiful hike and slightly downhill for a very easy hike. My recommendation would be to start at Jay camp (Headquarters) hike to sunset and out the next day only making this a one night trip and about 12 mile trip.

Did this as an overnight starting at Saratoga Gap. Scenery is beautiful, we had minimal vehicle noise and encountered few other hikers until we were in Big Basin. Stopped at park HQ to refill water, grab some lunch and rest before wrapping up the day with Berry Creek, Silver & Cascade falls on our way up (and up, and up) to Sunset Camp. Second day was gorgeous. Went back down to the falls and enjoyed them in the morning light then linked back up to S2S trail, following the creek most of the way. A quick 6ish miles from our campsite to Waddell Beach. Great hike and I’d do it again for sure, though it’d probably be better broken up staying at Jay Camp and doing the falls and finishing up on the second day (couldn’t grab a reservation for Jay though) That last push up the falls on stairs with cables to Sunset Camp was pretty rough after a 22+ mile day!

Great backpacking to sunset camp. Has 10 sites with food lockers and a toilet. Waterfalls before you get there. Recommend skyline accent and sunset back to bay camp/ basin HQ. research and know your goals before you head out.

This isn't the most scenic trail for the most part but definitely iconic and was part of my bucket list. 1. The first part of the trail until waterman gap trail was quite meh. Runs too close to the road and wasn't very pretty. 2. About a mile after waterman gap, it got quite foggy and the trees were dripping so it was a very pleasant and interesting experience throughout the major incline. 3. After the intersection with China grade road, it gets a bit exposed with some sweeping mountain views. I got lost at the bridge crossing and took the wrong trail across the bridge and had to come back when I realized after about a mile. You're supposed to go straight and cross the highway and not go across the bridge. 4. Soon after the views when you go down the steepest part, is about 3 miles flat in big basin which has a few redwood groves and overall pleasant along the creek until the part hq. 5. After the park hq, it is a bumpy tide down to berry creek falls (the falls are the best part of the hike. I'd go until silver falls if you have energy because that's the best part of the forest). This is also the toughest part of the hike which is Rocky and narrow but has the most traffic. 6. From there on to Waddell creek it's straightforward and uneventful for the most part except the last incline to the beach which was quite overgrown and had lots of poison oak. I'd wear full pants. The beach is just gorgeous. Probably one of the most beautiful along highway 1 with lots of surfers. I did this as a day hike and it took me about 10 hours including a big break at the hq. I hitchhiked from the highway to Santa Cruz and took an uber back to the Saratoga Gap. Don't expect data to be working at the beach to call an uber and the phone booth at the beach was broken too.

Hit the trail around 9:45am on a Sunday. Party of 6 and a leisurely lunch led to a relatively slow pace. Finished around 4:45pm. Linked the following together for a ~13mi hike loop: Skyline to the Sea-Sunset Connector-Sunset-Berry Creek Falls-Howard King-Hihn Hammond to Mt McAbee Overlook-Hihn Hammond Connector-Skyline to the Sea.

We went clockwise starting (after detour) at Skyline to Howard King awesome (overlook) views of the ocean.. then Berry Creek Falls... the falls are beautiful, I highly recommend going up berry creek trail even if you double back. It’s amazing, lil waterfalls all the way up. We continued on sunset trail and it’s no joke...! Steady uphill (Some STAIRS) for 5miles. Bring water, bug spray and strong glutes!!! Loved this hike! Highly recommend! We ended up at 14miles with detours (and mistakes) ✌

Like other people said, bring bug spray!!

Absolutely incredible hike, there really are no words to describe how breathtaking Big Basin is. Some parts of the trail were closed so it ended up being pretty close to 12 miles and took me about 5 hours. Beautiful and challenging, for me at least. Definitely bring some bug repellant and get out there early to miss the crowds :)

trail running
over grown
2 months ago

I did this as a marathon. It was a beautiful. A few dangerous spots because of roots or rocks. However, it was mostly soft pack redwood. I would love to do it again and plan to! I couldn’t recommend it enough :)

Decent trail but somewhat repetitive. The section going into/out of Big Basin is best and the final 5km or so was also nice. Probably won’t rush to do this again.

Ran the Skyline to sea 50K from Saratoga gap to Horse Camp. The trial was extremely technical and I nearly twisted my ankle 15 times (ankle brace would have been a good idea). Trail footing makes it difficult to run downhills fast. Trail is 70% mostly covered and shaded. Cell phone coverage at Horse Camp was limited to Verizon and Sprint (no T-Mobile/AT&T coverage). I originally planned to call an Uber at the finish line, but Uber indicated "No cars available" and a $76 price tag for ride back to Cupertino.

I did this from 5/25-27. If this trail is done I. 3 days with recommended camp grounds Waterman and Jay I would say it's an easy hike on day 1, easy to moderate on day 2 and 3. I had booked lane trail camp so my first day was around 15 miles. second day I did a couple of hikes from big basin headquarters and third day I took sunset trail to Cascade falls and then joined skyline to sea trail via berry Creek trail thus increasing the miles for each day significantly. big basin is very muddy. wear good fitting shoes and carry trekking poles if possible. lane trail camp has no water so carry a filter if u plan to stay there.

Easy short hike in from Waddell. Bypass more scenic.

2 months ago

Hiked this baby solo on May 25 (Memorial Day weekend). Couple things when going to big basin in general. It’s a beautiful state park. Doesn’t have all the glamorous views but considerably makes up for it with its giant redwoods. I arrived at the park at 745a and got to park in the front row. If you arrive much after 9 it’s busier than Walmart on Black Friday (at least on the weekend). The beginning of this trail is the coolest part. Side note: part of the skyline to sea trail is closed so you have to hike the road for about a mile or two (which if you’re there early enough is still gorgeous since nobody is around). The hike I would rate as moderate vs difficult but is subjective depending on your conditioning. No super spectacular views but redwoods are everywhere and some wildflowers were out when I did this. Solid hike.

The mosquitos were out in full force and it was super muddy through some parts, but the falls at around the halfway mark are pretty awesome. Even the scary climb up the side of one of the falls was really fun. Got to the park around 8:30am and the parking lots were rapidly filling up so if you’re gonna do it, go early.

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