backpacking
14 days ago

I definitely recommend this loop! Only reason it’s not 5 stars is because about 25% of it is along roads, so you’re hearing cars instead of the wild.

I did this loop over 2 days, camped at Waterman. I started from Portola National Forrest, which by the time you get on the loop trail probably adds at least a mile. Totally I’d say was 32 miles and I perfect split 16 and 16 each day from where I started. Note: where this map says start/finish, you can’t park! So unless you’re being dropped off you can only park at one of the 3 national forest.

Portola was a good place to start, less busy and easy to park at than the others. I hoped on the trail and headed towards Slate creek. This is a nicely little couple mile section to get the legs warm. After you pass the slate creek campground, you take on the steepest terrain this whole loops overs. It’s a good hour of continuous steep terrain, great to tackle your first day. After that is rolling hills and a since change of scenery from tree covered areas, to open grass pastures and hilltop views almost to the ocean. The last couple miles to Waterman you’re on the Skyline to Sea trail along the road. At one point you get into some rocky areas with some incredible views.

Waterman Camp: permits required, but didn’t run into any rangers along the way, and there was plenty of room at the site. Running water, which was the only place I refilled. There’s a stream by Slate creek, but not much else for water from Portola to Waterman. Only downside is you can hear the road from the campsite, and those windy roads attract lots of people racing their cars and bikes.

Day 2: I was pretty sore from the 16 miles on day one. This was by far my longest hike yet (prepping for Whitney). Again, another day of rolling hills and great change of scenery. You get into more of the redwoods in this section. I woke up to rain that morning and hiked the first two hours in a nice steady mist, but there was a majestic layer of fog throughout the forest. From Waterman back to Portola where my car was, I think I saw 2 people on the trail and both were within the first 30 minutes of leaving camp. This is what I came for! You’re still along roads, a lot of this section is along the road going into Big Basin, but it’s beautiful none the less.

I was pretty beat up towards the end, I probably should have just used my running shoes, but this was an awesome 2 day hike. The elevation gain throughout is pretty substantial and the miles will test you. I ran the SF marathon a couple years ago (sub 4 hours)... and I think this loop was tougher for me both mentally and physically! I did this loop for the workout and that’s what I got! What’s nice is all 3 campgrounds are spaced out almost exactly by 10 miles, so it’d be easy to split this up over 3 days as well.