Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

HARD 105 reviews
#2 of 6 trails in

Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail is a 25.2 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Los Gatos, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
25.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3389 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

beach

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

old growth

no dogs

Two of the Bay Area's most popular hiking locales -- Castle Rock and Big Basin Redwoods state parks -- promise one of the region's top backpacking experiences. A three-day, 25-plus-mile hike through these parks from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean shows off everything to see in the South Bay woods, from the redwoods towering above to the banana slugs creeping along the forest floor. A popular version of this hike begins at the eastern terminus of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, at the intersection of Highways 9 and 35 (Saratoga Gap). The first third of Skyline-to-the-Sea tracks along a highway and is otherwise unremarkable, so a superior option is to start from the Castle Rock State Park headquarters a few miles south of the gap on Highway 35. Castle Rock offers wonderful vistas of the mountains stretching to the sea, and a safe place to park your car. The second and third days of the hike traverse ancient redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, passing the impressive Berry Creek Falls and ending at the edge of America at Waddell Beach on the Pacific Ocean.

37 minutes ago

First backpacking experience. Only did the roundtrip hike/camp from Castle Rock SP to Waterman Gap.
Downhill to Waterman - pretty much all uphill back to Castle Rock. Good variety in terms of scenery. Took off 1 star because of gunfire and highway noise (although honestly not a big deal). Looking forward to completing the entire Skyline to Sea Trail in the future.

hiking
2 days ago

backpacking
8 days ago

hiking
10 days ago

camping
10 days ago

hiking
23 days ago

25 days ago

hiking
26 days ago

trail running
1 month ago

Can't believe there are people actually complaining about "too many redwoods"- you just don't appreciate redwoods properly. Anyways, only 4 outta 5 cause signs can be awful at points. Started up at Castle Rock and didn't find out about the trail still being closed until I got to Big Basin- thanks for the heads up, guys. I guess the powers that be can write endless tickets should someone stay past sundown, but they can't update the main park sign or post anything to reflect the new distance. Was trying to do this in a day and had to turn back after Berry Creek Falls, was already at 23 miles coming into Big Basin originally due to previous unclear signs and some bad planning on my part. The 4 sided posts with arrows going in vague directions often don't help- just mark the side facing where the hiker will be coming from with "Trail X, take right, trail Y, take left"- I'm confused as to why this isn't the standard. Then I missed Sunset Connector Trail (only sign for it was on the back of the post, so you'd only see it coming from one direction), not sure if that woulda worked as the detour posted at Big Basin HQ was the 12 mile Berry Creek one- ya, just a mess of a hike in terms of clear directions. Anyways, as to why it's still a dope hike- Castle Rock is a beautiful place to start in the morning, loved seeing clouds cover the valley with my ultimate (unreached) destination, the sea, in the distance. The stretch beside the road isn't the best, but there's enough to keep you interested. There are some open sections over some interesting rock formations, plenty of impressive redwoods, and there is some wildlife- lizards, hawks up at Castle Rock if you start later, and I saw a green snake chowing down on a mouse which was insane. Obviously I can't review the whole thing since I had to stop short, but it's a heck of a thru-hike taking you through some nicely varied terrain- and yes, there are lots of Redwoods, still can't believe people manage to make that a negative. Anyways, I'm planning on finishing the last 12+ miles once my feet hate me a bit less, heck of a hike from what I did cover though!

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

backpacking
2 months ago

Great hike, around 31 miles in total, 3 days. I'm a beginner backpacker and I found this beautiful and not too challenging. We had a nice slow and steady pace throughout, around 2mph, and I found that very doable.

We started at Castle Rock around noon on Tuesday. There are some exposed sections and a couple of short scrambles around Goat Rock. Also: beautiful views. We stopped for a snack at Castle Rock trail camp (pit toilet, water), and then left for Waterman Gap. Camp was quiet and secluded, but near highway 9. Car noise died down early and we had a peaceful nights sleep. There's water and a pit toilet, no food lockers. Total day of 9.3 miles.

Day 2 we started around 8:30 and hiked the 10 miles to Big Basin Headquarters. There are a few short exposed sections here as well, and some steep up and downs. I didn't find it very challenging, and enjoyed it. Took a long lunch break at HQ, it was crowded, but we were able to grab some supplies we needed and a quick snack. Left for Sunset camp around 2:30, made it there around 5. I've done the reverse hike (Berry Falls to HQ via Sunset trail) and found it more challenging in that direction than going this way. Did feel like we were a little late getting to the camp, many of the sites were occupied by large groups, and only small/awkwardly placed ones were left. There are food lockers and a pit toilet, no water. Water is available about .4 mile away, down a fairly steep grade, at the falls. We'd stocked up at HQ and decided to skip it till morning. The total for the day was 14.3 miles.

Day 3 started around 7:30, hiked down to Berry Falls and spent some time filtering our water for the day. It's a beautiful spot and there was no one around that early. First couple miles are a little varied, steep decline along the falls to start, than some ups and downs, but the last 5 miles or so are wide, flat, and easy. We stayed on the bike trail rather than the hiker bypass because my partner was having some shoe troubles, and finished around noon. The day's total was 7 miles.

Would highly recommend this for entry-level backpacking, helps to have an experienced friend.

2 months ago

nice day jog. started at Castle Rock around 10 a.m. finished the 25 miles shortly after night fall. Bring 2 gallons of water and snacks. 3 star only cause all I saw was red wood red wood red wood...would be nice to see more variety and more wildlife. it is pretty busy which may have a role in critter activity.

I've done this hike about 7 times and it never gets old. Such beautiful scenery and amazing trail. Going from the mountains to the ocean so mostly downhill but always more uphill than I remember. For a long hike, so far to me this is as good as it gets. Only done it as a day hike, although there are two potential campgrounds along the way. If you run the flats and downhills you can finish in less than 6 hours. Or you can take your time. Refill water at Big Basin HQ.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great trek through a mostly shaded canopy over three days. Day 1: ~9.5 miles, trail time 4.5 hrs. Began at Castle Rock SP at noon and overnighted at Waterman Gap. There are exposed, hot areas as you leave Castle Rock, but you will descend into the shade after about an hour. Water as you cross the San Lorenzo River, about half way. Shaded all the way to Waterman. Nice campground, piped water and a pit toilet. No food lockers so plan on hanging your food. Day 2: ~9.5 Left Waterman at 7:30 am and was at Big Basin HQ by 12:30. Trail is mostly downhill with one ridge climb, but the most shaded day of the three. Overnighted at Jay Camp. Full facilities, food lockers, and lots of day hikers/park visitors. Day 3: ~13 miles. Left Big Basin at 7:15 and arrived at Wadell Beach at 12:30. Leaving Big Basin, it is a climb up and out of the basin, but then mostly downhill from there. The last 6 miles after passing the Berry Creek Falls area, is mostly flat as it follows Wadell Creek. There is a small hike up and down before getting to the Racho Del Oso trailhead and then about 15 minutes down the road to the beach. No cell service, so plan your ride accordingly if you don't have a car parked. Permits are required and necessary for any trail camp you stay at. This could be done in two days, but they will be long. Overall, the trail has an elevation loss, but it is up and down all the way. The only knock on this is the massive number of people in Big Basin, so it lacks solitude within that area, but do this trip a relaxing three days with decent and very doable mileage.

backpacking
2 months ago

Beautiful redwood groves - one qualm is being near the highway for a pretty good stretch but minimal traffic.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

2 months ago

great trail started off by the nutmug trail took it down to the medows and continued on for about ten miles ....the journey down was breath taking but the jouny back up was a different story...lol

hiking
3 months ago