Hike the Saratoga Gap Trail

Castle Rock SP - Search Nearby - Added by The Outbound Collective

Duration: 3 hours, 4.7 mile partial loop. Beautiful views, a waterfall, and unique sandstone formations. Considered one of the best hikes in the Bay Area.

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 elevation is about 3090 feet. The featured hike descends to about 2300 feet, then gradually ascends back to the trailhead. Some short sections of trail are steep, and there are portions of Saratoga Gap Trail that require brief scrambles on narrow exposed paths with sharp dropoffs.

For the best view of Castle Rock Falls, hop down onto the viewing platform on the right side of the path at 3.85 miles. From there you'll have a view of the water as it sluices through a rock channel and then drops 75 feet or so. Even before the storms rage in the winter, this waterfall is active.

There is a large parking lot, and some free roadside parking just past the entrance on the right side of the road. Mind the no parking signs at the pullout. There is a day use entrance fee of $8/$1 for seniors (additional fees apply if you leave your vehicle in the lot overnight). There are two designated handicapped parking spots in the parking lot, but the trails are not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. Pit toilet on north side of parking lot. Pay phone in lot. No drinking water at the trailhead or on the trail. Maps are available for $2.00 when kiosk is staffed; there is a map under glass at the information signboard on the south side of the parking lot, just past the entrance.

Want an on-the-trail reference? Print out Castle Rock in a nutshell.

Distance

4.7 Miles RT

Type

Loop

Activities

Hiking

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Scenic
Waterfall

Nearby Lodging

From $120/night

Serene Redwood Retreat

Ben Lomond, California

Santa Cruz North / Costanoa KOA

Pescadero, California

From $100/night

Walkabout

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA

1186 San Andreas Road

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great Landscape And A Quick Adventure!

Super busy on the weekend, but if you go in expecting that, you won't be disappointed. ;) It is worth the potential parking hassle to see some of the expansive views along this trail! Stop at Goat Rock for some fun views and photo opportunities. If going after heavy rains, be sure to check the status of trails and roads in the area before going. I went a couple weeks after heavy rains and although it was open, some trails were still shut down and the roads leading to the trailhead were still being mended...some one way traffic with waits at some points along the way.

A Quick Hike To Beautiful Views!

Definitely gets very busy after 9am on the weekends. We went early and only saw a few people on the trail. Big rocks and big views make for a great easy hike. So close to home, there's no excuse not to come!

Nice Getaway

This is a great hike to get out and into the forest. The view is gorgeous looking at tons of trees and the ocean in the distance. However, it got very busy by the time we left around 10am. Also, the view is pretty but the same everywhere you go on the trail. Looks like it would be a great spot to camp in the future, even with the fees.

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