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Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail: Saratoga Gap Route [CLOSED]

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail: Saratoga Gap Route [CLOSED] is a 25.2 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Saratoga, 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.

Length 25.2 mi Elevation gain 2,440 ft Route type Point to Point
Backpacking Camping Hiking Nature trips Bird watching Running Beach Forest Views Waterfall Wild flowers Wildlife Bridge out Bugs Closed No dogs
Description
Waypoints (5)
Facilities
Contact
Tips
Getting There

As of August 2020, this park is currently closed due to wildfire until further notice. See here for more info: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30009 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.

Park at the Castle Rock Park Entrance. Make sure to set up a carpool/shuttle.

Guide to backpacking on the Skyline to the Sea Trail http://www.bigbasin.org/backpacking.html

Don't be misled by talk of this hike being "all downhill." While most of it descends, there are substantial uphill sections. With a pack it can be very tiring. If you're trying backpacking for the first time, rent your gear at a local REI or other outfitter. Hang your food to keep raccoons and rodents out of it. All water in streams must be filtered or otherwise purified. What to bring: Overnight backpacking gear -- shelter, sleeping bag, food, cooking gear Layers -- it can be very cool in the deep woods and hot in the sun Bug repellent Rain gear if you go during the rain season. Water purification -- filters preferred.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (306)
Photos (2632)
Recordings (255)
Completed (693)
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Mark Schiltz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2020
Hiking

Clean and safe

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Mark Schiltz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 17, 2020
Mountain biking

The trail is now clear from Saratoga gap to Waterman gap. Very rewarding to do this work.

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Myrella Heimbuck
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 13, 2020
Hiking

There’s a tree down (fell Sunday 7/12) at the Golden Cascade Falls.

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Mariana Sharp
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 6, 2020
Hiking

this trail is a good shaded walk, however the noise from the nearby road is constant.

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Tara Wu
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 5, 2020
Hiking

We hiked from Big Basin Redwood State Park headquarter to Waddell Beach, it took us 5 hours, the first was a little rough, after Berry Creek waterfall, the road is all flat, very pleasant trip.

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Amir Mohammadi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 22, 2020
Hiking

Amazing experience. Will do it again and again and again .

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Jared Magid
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 8, 2020
RunningWashed out

Ran this with a couple friends today June 7th in about 6 hours. We tried to leave at 8am but ended up starting at 9:30am and all drank the 3 liters or so that we packed on our backs. There was one area washed out that we decided to go for and it wasn’t too hard to find the trail. It’s a gorgeous trail and goes through quite a few ecology changes. There are nice views at the top when you see the valley, the falls are great and the redwoods are amazing. You reach a creek towards the bottom which is also really cool. There is little to no cell service when you go in the forest or until you’re at the beach.

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Matt R
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 7, 2020
Road biking

I did the sea -> skyline version today and didn’t see any notable downed trees. There’s a detour around the Big Basin headquarters where you have to take the Sunset Trail for awhile. Thought I took a wrong turn but when I doubled back the S2S trail looked impassable. I linked my recording biking back down to Waddell Beach. It was the only way I could find to round trip it solo in one day.

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Sonja Garcia
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HikingBugs
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Jessica Hexsel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 31, 2020
HikingClosed

Big Basin is open but all trail accesses from Castle Rock are closed. Some downed trees but nothing out of the ordinary. Not too overgrown.

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Kathy Hunter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 9, 2020
Hiking

Made a half day hike out of the first leg - out and back from Skyline. Brush and a two recently downed trees not yet cleared. Lots of poison ivy encroaching on the trail. By noon, the bugs were becoming active, but not as buggy as during the summer months on this trail.

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Denys Nevozhai
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 9, 2020
Mountain bikingClosed

Lockdown is an amazing opportunity to bike this trail and meet no people. Fun!

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Anon Cheewakarn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 1, 2020
HikingBridge outMuddy
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Robert Carney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 4, 2019
Hiking

Hiked/ran 5 mile loop from Waddle entry point. It’s a steady manageable climb. Great ascent trail for runners. Well maintained wide trail. Beautiful views.

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Joe Bell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 23, 2019
HikingBugs

Bday hike... I wanted to abuse my body and that’s exactly what I got out of this hike. My wife was kind enough to follow us to Waddell to drop off a car then drive us back to Castlerock, thanks hun. Started the hike at 6am and the main goal was to finish in time to catch the sunset at the beach which we accomplished, took us close to 11 hours. We averaged about 20 something minute miles with a quick stop at Waterman and a lunch break at headquarters. Met a few hikers on the way one of which seen a rattlesnake on the trail, supposedly shortly after we crossed paths, yikes. Also met a couple groups of backpackers doing the Skyline to Sea Trail as their 1st backpacking experience. Cheers to you guys and congratulations, Happy Trails! The scenery wasn’t as pretty IMHO but had a handful of spots to pull out the phone to take a flick. Vehicle noise was terrible along the trail but was an option to bail out in case of an emergency. Lots of poison oak/ivy so dress appropriately. No potable water at Castlerock or Waterman. We packed about 2 liters each and refilled at HQ. I brought a gravity filter just incase but wasn’t too confidant to try it at a couple creeks. On the last mile or so we were able to see the beach. It gave us instant energy and we started trail jogging a few hundred yards like fools. As soon as we crossed Highway 1 we walked to the sand, undressed and jumped into the Pacific. Body was instantly cleansed and felt so refreshing and gratifying. Ended the experience with a couple ice cold beers and a view of the sunset. PS: Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do the whole hike in a day. Intrigue the mind and the body will follow.

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Jacob Thompson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 12, 2019
Hiking

Well maintained trail with lots of cover. Trail markers provided clear directions other than one spot (don’t take the bridge at mile 10, stay straight and head up). I did an out and back of first 10 miles and only saw two other people on the trail (granted it was a weekday). Large parking lot at start of trail.

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Kellen Broemmelsiek
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 8, 2019
HikingBugs

We took the ridge trail down to the sea from the head quarters. It can be hard on your knees.

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Yash Desai
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HikingBugs
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kenneth choi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 3, 2019
Hiking

awesome

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Bryn Kelts
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 12, 2019
BackpackingBugs

Amazing trip. Lots of bugs so bring bug spray.

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Tracy Browske Bilhorn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 3, 2019
HikingBugs

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.

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Shayan Saeed
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 18, 2019
Hiking

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.

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Hollis Nolan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 13, 2019
HikingBugs
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Tito Monjes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 10, 2019
Backpacking

Like other people said, bring bug spray!!

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Sam Schmutz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 8, 2019
HikingMuddy
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Noah Yuzna
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 2, 2019
RunningClosedMuddyOver grownRocky

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 :)

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