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Skyline to the Sea Trail

3-day hike showcases best of the Santa Cruz Mountains

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 28.9 miles
Duration: Multiple days

Overview:  Campers flock to the forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco; most are content to pitch a tent plucked from the... more »

Tips:  Click this link (PDF download) for the most up-to-date information on backpacking the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, including current... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Day 1

Starting from the Castle Rock parking lot, follow the signs to Saratoga Gap Trail, about a half-mile, and turn left just after crossing a small stream.

Saratoga Gap Trail is a rocky 2-mile route along a ridge with impressive views of the nearby terrain. Footing is tricky, so take your time and watch your step. It ends at Trail Camp, where you... More

2. Day 2

The rest of the route sticks to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which is well marked so you can pretty much follow the signs.

Day 2 is a 10-mile stretch starting with a section running next to a highway for a few miles, but hang in there: eventually it crosses the highway and dives deeper and deeper into the ancient redwood forest that made Big... More

3. Park HQ

Stop by the snack shop across the road to grab a cold drink or a bite to eat.

4. Day 3

It's another 13 miles to the ocean on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail from the park HQ, but side trips could add a few more miles to your hike.

One spur I highly recommend: the one-mile Redwood Trail, which showcases Father of the Forest and Mother of the Forest, two of the biggest redwoods at Big Basin.

When you get back on Skyline-to-the-Sea,... More

5. Waddell Beach parking lot

Another option is to start your hike down here at the Pacific Coast along California Highway 1 and hike uphill the entire way.