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Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

HARD 94 reviews
#2 of 5 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.

1 day ago

backpacking
3 days 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.

22 days 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
29 days 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
1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

1 month 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

backpacking
1 month ago

A beautiful backpacking trip though there is a lot of downhill through Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
We backpacked this trail in June and the water was gushing, and ferns were a vibrant green. Trail conditions were good and mostly covered.

1 month ago

Loved it but it's 35 miles not 25

hiking
1 month ago

We started this off route 9 and walked about 2.5 miles down the hill and back. Mostly shady. Would do it again, but not easy for kids.

1 month ago

2 months ago

2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

This is the portion of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail that was not washed out — beginning from where it is joined by the Howard King trail detour (see track). It was a long hike but with wide, nearly level trails all the way to the ocean. My daughter saw nearly a hundred banana slugs.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Started from where the Skyline-to-the-Sea crosses Big Basin Way and descends down into Big Basin park. A fairly easy day's hike that ended with us having plenty of time to set up camp and relax among the giant redwoods.

hiking
2 months ago

Just finished this trail yesterday, it's challenging but doable to complete in one day! Took us a solid 12 hours. We left a car across the street from the beach (parking allowed from 6 am to 10 pm) and had a friend drop us off at Saratoga Gap, a little over an hour drive from the beach. Storm damage is evident throughout the trail, but there's nothing too difficult or impassable. Currently one section is closed, just after you pass through Big Basin HQ up to Berry Creek Falls. You take the Howard King Trail as a detour, and although this trail only adds an extra ~3 miles give yourself time to move slower! Its almost entirely steep uphill and downhill, with little in between. It does offer some fantastic views though! The detour is by far the most challenging part, the rest of the trail is mostly a easy, gentle downhill. After the detour there's a side trail to Berry Creek Falls. Currently only the lower portion is accessible, but it was still very beautiful and worth the extra mile. From there, it's 6-7 miles of easy hiking to Waddell Beach.

2 months ago

Some of the trails are still closed. Check the park's website for trail closure information.