hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

views

no dogs

birding

trail running

wild flowers

wildlife

Situated in Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park features mossy forests with Douglas-fir, coast redwood, and madrone trees. The park's unusual rock formations are a big hit with rock climbers. The park boasts 32 miles of hiking trails and horseback riding trails that link up with an extensive trail system that connects the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys as well as Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and the Pacific Coast. This beautiful California State Park is great place to take a weekend trip from the San Francisco Bay Area or San Jose and enjoy some bird watching or hit up the picnic areas, but be advised that basic backcountry campsites for backpackers are the only camping option. Equestrians are urged to call ahead for current trail information and due to high fire hazard, smoking is prohibited on the trails within Castle Rock State Park. Dogs are also not allowed on the trails or in the campground. The park is open sunrise to sunset.

nature trips
4 days ago

State Park Docents are often present on Weekends.
Pictures show some key points. Fire ant hill, woodpecker tree, castle rock with its tafoni, giant Douglas Fir trees, and oak forest.

This is definitely a difficult loop. I would not recommend it to people who cannot handle slopes or the heat. The path is also not paved, and may require some climbing over large rocks and boulders. I finished it in close to 2.5 hours, but I stopped a lot for photos and to snack. The views are absolutely gorgeous!

The only con I have is that it's a very popular place, so parking can get difficult to find.

The hike is between easy to moderate. I went clockwise and found it enjoyable. The views of ocean and pine trees of rangers there are very blissful to see. Sometimes, the trail totally vanishes and all you have to do is to get past the boulder or rock covering it. Please carry bug repellent as there are lot of blood sucking insects and they will keep swarming you. Most of the time I could only only hear them. This trail would be very beautiful in raining season.

Really pretty area with tons of sandstone for bouldering and great spots to play and take pictures! Just a little short for me to give 5 stars, and there were a lot of other people around on a Sunday morning.

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.

Great hike with nice variety of views, rocks, and a stream. Took us 3hrs.

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.

My daughter and I rate this as one of our favorite trails. We do it often and the views are always spectacular.

hiking
21 days 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.

I highly enjoyed this trail when I lived in STL. I would drive 30 mins to come to this park almost weekly. The trail is nice and easy to navigate. The views are great and even better in the winter.

backpacking
1 month 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.

5.5m loop took me about 3 hrs. Average hiker here just to give you an idea. Do not worry about getting lost all trail fork had a trail signs and distance. During my hike in the am sometimes it gets foggy so did not see the views. Easy and fun.

Really good. No sunshine even in sunny day thats good for me. Good views

hiking
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month 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!

Nice views along the trail, variety of wildlife - tons of flowers and trees sighted. May get hot in the summer but was great for a 70-80 degree day with plenty of shade.

beautiful scenery and ideal for morning hikes for the crisp air and pretty dew on foliage. definitely looking forward to hiking some of the other trails at Castle Rock next time.

I love coming here. The views are amazing

There are lots of great trails in this park, but make sure to take a photo of the map at the beginning so you stay on the trail you want to be on. Also, the parking fee is $8.

backpacking
2 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.

Very moderate. On the weekend busy but parking was easy. The rock sculpting was impressive, worth a look. A bit foggy when I went but lots of good trail viewpoints. Sounds from the distant gun range echo like thunder from afar.

backpacking
2 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.

EXCELLENT trails - amazing views - and not so difficult.
parking is a bit of an issue.
highly recommended..

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