Backpack the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

30.8 miles  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by Grant

Backpack one of the Bay Area's famed trails with an easy side trip to Berry Creek Falls, a 70ft waterfall in Big Basin. Remember to park a shuttle car at Waddell Beach.

Want to experience one of the bay area's most memorable backpacking trips? We've got the details to get you out on the trail.

To start the trek, drop your car at the Castle Rock State Park Parking Lot, which is located ~2.5 miles south of the junctions of Highways 35 and 9 off of Highway 35. Note that you must park inside the gate. Be sure to bring cash as exact change is required for parking your car. From the parking lot, look for signs for the Saratoga Gap Trail (SGT). Take this trail north back toward the junction of the 35 and the 9. The SGT will take you to the starting point of the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail.

If you want to get some distance under your belt on the first day, head west along the Skyline-to-the-Sea (STTS) Trail for 9.5-miles from the starting point. This ~10-mile stretch will get you to your first campsite, Waterman Gap. Waterman gives you access to pit toilets and water. Keep in mind that you need to arrive at your campsites before dark and are not permitted to leave the campsites after dark. You can get back on the trail at 6am.

Day 2 starts with a trek to either an 8.3-mile hike to Lane Camp or a 9.8-mile hike to Jay (Big Basin HQ). If it's available, we recommend Jay, because there is no water at Lane, and Big Basin HQ gives you the opportunity to resupply if needed. Another benefit of making it to Jay Camp is the proximity to Berry Creek Falls.

Day 3 ends with 13-mile hike out of Waddell Creek Wilderness to Waddell Beach. Covered by the canopies of old redwoods, this is arguably one of the best trails on the California coast. In the distance, you'll hear hear and get a glimpse of Berry Creek's 70ft waterfall. If you've got the energy, this approximately 7-mile out-and-back detour is well worth it.

Important Phone Numbers for Campsites can be found here.

An overview map of the trail can be found here.

Read More

Tags

Backpacking
Bathrooms
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Fantastic Trek for Beginning Backpackers

It helps a lot if you have a generous friend willing to pick you up via car from the sea on day 3. Great campsites you book in advance through the park. Nothing like arriving at the ocean.

Beautiful Hike Through The Redwoods

I did this hike last year and I'm hiking this again this weekend. Beautiful scenery, moderate hike with an overall decrease in elevation from Castle Rock to the Ocean. We only saw about 2 other people on the trail the entire time. I can't wait!!

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

over 4 years ago

Perfect Three Day Trip

Such a beautiful trail. This is equally as enjoyable as some of the Sierra treks and just so happens to be right in the Bay Area! Like Grant mentioned, definitely make sure you have a shuttle car or you'll be hitchhiking (like I had to) once you get out!

Fabulous and fun. It's a hike that can be done in as few as two days, but you should give yourself more. Beautiful views and a comfortable trail. Watch out for mosquitos in the summer!

Stay Nearby

Los Gatos, California

Sunrise Point

Sunrise Point is a micro climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains with an elevation of 2,000 feet about sea level. Sometimes above the fog and clouds and some times in the thick of it! You will be surro...

From $125/night

Boulder Creek, California

Creekside Gem W/ Deck, Fireplace & Pool

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Nestled on Boulder Creek and adjacent to the golf club, this charming 2BR/2...

From $126/night

Los Gatos, California

New Listing! Redwood Enchantment W/Hot Tub & Views

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Contemporary furnishings and rustic-chic details come together at this newl...

From $304/night

Santa Cruz, California

Jack's Canvas Cabin

FlipJack Ranch is a historic 1882 farm set in towering redwoods and green fields. Our Glamp cabin offers rustic comfort in serene surroundings. A hearty Farm to Table Breakfast is included. Best of...

From $164/night

Nearby Adventures

  • Backpack Castle Rock State Park

    Castle Rock Trail Camp has a different policy than other backcountry camps in the area (i.e. campsites along Skyline to the Sea). This campground is open all year and is available on a first come, first served basis. If you can, grab a spot a Frog...

  • Hike the Saratoga Gap Trail

    The Saratoga Gap Trail is relatively lightly trafficked trail that is good year round, although waterfalls peak in late winter and spring. Overall, this 4.7 mile partial loop hike is moderate, with about 1000 feet in elevation change. Trailhead el...

    4.7 miles

  • Hike Sanborn County Park via the San Andreas Trail

    This is a moderately rated 4.2 mile trail that winds through the redwoods west of Saratoga.  It features a dirt trail with tall trees and a creek.  The hike is very tranquil and there is lot s of greenery.  There are big rocks in the creek that ca...

    4.2 miles 1282 ft gain

  • Lost Mine Trail Run

    Communes, dairy, and gold. These words are not often associated with trail running, but out on Monte Bello Ridge and Black Mountain which rise high above Silicon Valley, you might just hear them uttered.From the parking area in Skyline Open Space ...