Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Hike through a towering redwood forest on the easy-access overnighter.
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Hike through a towering redwood forest on the easy-access overnighter.

When I first started daydreaming about where I’d want to go as BACKPACKER field scout, my mind immediately went to the Sierra and other big-trip destinations. But what I really wanted to do, I soon realized, was share a local trail that showcases my home in northern California. And I knew just the route. I grew up at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Saratoga, and I live minutes away from Castle Rock State Park and the trailhead for this 29.5-mile point-to-point. Yet I’ve never hiked it—funny how easy it is to ignore what’s right out your door.

The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail connects Castle Rock and Big Basin Redwoods State Park, home to an 18,000-acre redwood forest. It’s mostly downhill, leading through the wildlife-packed Santa Cruz Mountains, all the way to Waddell Beach, a wide, sandy cove popular with wind and kite surfers. It works best spread over three days.

The first third of the route is a little close to the road for my taste—I could hear traffic—but soon enough you’ll get views of the rolling San Lorenzo Valley before dipping into a mix of grasses, dense hardwoods, then Jurassic Park-like ferns on the floor of redwood forests at mile 20. Pack a bear canister—the campsite raccoons are clever.

Add a 2.7-mile detour on day three to explore the prettiest waterfalls: Berry Creek, Silver, and Golden.

You could hit just the highlights by starting at Big Basin headquarters and trekking eight miles to Waddell Beach. But when I go again, I’ll keep the same itinerary. Backpacking and camping this good should be savored.

Map Big Basin and Castle Rock Trail Maps ($5 each, 831-335-3174)

Contact Reserve sites two month prior ($15, 831-338-8861)

-Text and mapping by Katherine Rea

Waypoints

Trailhead

Location: 37.2578, -122.12285

Poi 2

Location: 37.25618, -122.12392

Poi 3

Location: 37.25614, -122.12469

Poi 4

Location: 37.25553, -122.12557

Poi 5

Location: 37.25508, -122.12741

Poi 6

Location: 37.25541, -122.12904

Poi 7

Location: 37.25539, -122.1336

Poi 8

Location: 37.25349, -122.13498

Poi 9

Location: 37.25165, -122.13686

Poi 10

Location: 37.2491, -122.13806

Poi 11

Location: 37.24571, -122.14083

Poi 12

Location: 37.24489, -122.14409

Poi 13

Location: 37.24425, -122.14928

Poi 14

Location: 37.24165, -122.15353

Poi 15

Location: 37.24367, -122.15292

Poi 16

Location: 37.23959, -122.14929

Poi 17

Location: 37.23532, -122.14507

Poi 18

Location: 37.23281, -122.14758

Poi 19

Location: 37.22834, -122.14862

Poi 20

Location: 37.2239, -122.14642

Poi 21

Location: 37.22451, -122.14907

Poi 22

Location: 37.2227, -122.15323

Poi 23

Location: 37.21776, -122.15173

Poi 24

Location: 37.213, -122.15259

Poi 25

Location: 37.21183, -122.15681

Poi 26

Location: 37.20738, -122.15621

Poi 27

Location: 37.20344, -122.159

Poi 28

Location: 37.19926, -122.16459

Poi 29

Location: 37.19583, -122.16572

Poi 30

Location: 37.19393, -122.17376

Poi 31

Location: 37.1971, -122.18164

Poi 32

Location: 37.20066, -122.1918

Poi 33

Location: 37.19987, -122.19931

Poi 34

Location: 37.19907, -122.20748

Poi 35

Location: 37.19927, -122.21823

Poi 36

Location: 37.19265, -122.2198

Poi 37

Location: 37.1839, -122.21833

Poi 38

Location: 37.17812, -122.21946

Poi 39

Location: 37.17554, -122.22273

Poi 40

Location: 37.1756, -122.22752

Poi 41

Location: 37.17636, -122.2365

Poi 42

Location: 37.17979, -122.24944

Poi 43

Location: 37.18154, -122.25314

Poi 44

Location: 37.18073, -122.26306

Poi 45

Location: 37.1797, -122.27058

Poi 46

Location: 37.18272, -122.2697

Poi 47

Location: 37.1783, -122.27175

Poi 48

Location: 37.17759, -122.27033

Poi 49

Location: 37.17692, -122.2687

Poi 50

Location: 37.17084, -122.26503

Poi 51

Location: 37.16877, -122.26371

Poi 52

Location: 37.16285, -122.26818

Poi 53

Location: 37.15939, -122.27283

Poi 54

Location: 37.14855, -122.27052

Poi 55

Location: 37.14229, -122.26891

Poi 56

Location: 37.13409, -122.26768

Poi 57

Location: 37.12127, -122.26688

Poi 58

Location: 37.11181, -122.27015

Poi 59

Location: 37.10893, -122.27314

Poi 60

Location: 37.10523, -122.27703

Poi 61

Location: 37.10178, -122.27797

Poi 62

Location: 37.09714, -122.27961