State Park Trifecta

HARD 6 reviews

State Park Trifecta is a 28.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Lorenzo Park, California that features a river. The trail is rated as difficult and primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking.

28.8 miles
5265 feet






historic site

no dogs

This may be the longest direct loop hike available in the peninsula. The nearly 30 mile loop covers three State Parks (Castle Rock, Big Basin, and Portola Redwoods), a county park (Pescadero Creek Park), and a Mid Peninsula Regional Open District (Long Ridge Open Space Preserve). This is all made possible by well positioned easements that allow for narrow but critical routes in between the parks. If you're looking for a good weekend hike that loops, this may be your best bet in the South Bay. Campsites: There are three nearly equidistant camp sites along the trail; Waterman Gap Trail Camp, Lane Trail Camp, Slate Creek Trail Campground. No matter where you start the hike, you will also have a campground within roughly 10 miles. Reservations are required in advance. Parking: There are three overnight parking lots; at Big Basin Park HQ, Portola Redwoods Park HQ, and at the main Castle Rock entrance. Parking at the latter will add a few miles distance. There are also several places where one could get dropped off and hop on the Skyline to Sea trail. Historical Sites: There are two historical sites along the way, the Iverson Cabin and the Page Mill Site (original site of Mr. Page's Mill and road). There is not much to see at the sites except a marker and a sign, but it's nice to connect with some of the region's 19th century history. Variations: If you're looking for a longer route, you can extend this trail by pushing further into either Castle Rock, Big Basin, and even Pescadero Creek Park, as long as you make it to the easement cross points. Pushing further into these parks can easily help you come up with a 50-60 mile loop if you really wanted. Trail info for the parts encompassing: - Skyline to Sea: Good trail but proximity to highway 9 causes it to lose some of the isolation charm. Great views of redwoods though. Well trafficked popular trail. - Basin trail: The relatively higher elevation presents a very different vegetation, with shorter trees and more bushes, where one can capture some nice long distance views. - Basin trail easement: All the property mark signs on the first part of the trail made me just want to get through it and across. Second part of the trail felt like it didn't get a lot of foot traffic but was well marked and maintained. - Butano ridge trail: Sharp switchbacks take you down almost 1500 feet of elevation. Nice scenery. - Summit trail: Sounds like it would be a tough hike based on the name but it was only about a 600 foot elevation climb. - Slate creek trail: Well maintained and nice trail. Runs by a river for most of the distance. - Ward road trail: Connect Portola Redwoods state park to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve... biggest elevation change of the entire trail here. Wide trail that really is more of a road. Something to get through, though there are some nice long views available. - Hicky Oaks Trail: Best long views of the entire hike here as one can see into the entire valley before re-connecting with the Skyline to the Sea trail. Trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. There are several rivers along the way to refill water, but it would be worth planning for those in advance as there are some long stretches with no river access. Please post your trip reports and variations!

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.

2 months ago

Great trail to spend time on :)

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Great way to see a wide variety of the open spaces and trails in the peninsula. This trail takes you through five different parks, and it's nice that it's a loop so you don't have to shuttle cars around.

21 days ago

3 months ago

10 months ago