Backpack the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Castle Rock SP, Saratoga, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Backpacking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    30.8 Miles

Bathrooms
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

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.

Pack List

  • Shuttle Car parked at Waddell Beach
  • Camp Stove (No fires allowed)
  • Backpack
  • Hiking Boots
  • Trekking Poles (optional)
  • Lightweight Jacket
  • Synthetic shirt
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Food for 2-3 days
  • Campsite Reservations
  • Cash for parking
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Reviews

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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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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!!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

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!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Grant Nyquist Admin

I'm basically awesome, more basic though

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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