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Skyline to the Sea Trail

Intermediate
 4.5 (17) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

An amazing hike from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.


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Map Key

25.4

Miles

40.9

KM

Point to Point

2,623' 799 m

High

16' 5 m

Low

1,910' 582 m

Up

4,515' 1,376 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

27%

Max Grade (15°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Views · Waterfall

Reservations are required for the trail camps. Some camps are closed during the winter.

Overview

This hike takes you from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains through ancient redwood forests to windswept Waddell Beach on the Pacific Ocean.

Description

The trail starts across Skyline Boulevard from the Saratoga Gap parking lot. Note that there is no overnight parking allowed at Saratoga Gap and most parties doing the entire trail instead start from Castle Rock State Park.

The trail parallels State Route 9 through the forest for six miles, but there is little traffic noise. After six miles is Waterman Gap Trail, where most hikers spend their first night.

After Waterman Gap, the trail crosses SR 9 and starts to parallel State Route 236, which is even less trafficked than SR 9. On this stretch of trail, you'll start to see your first old-growth redwood forests.

After you cross China Grade around eleven miles in, the forest gives way to open chaparral and you'll get some nice views of the surrounding mountains.

The trail turns south and descends toward cool and shady Opal Creek. The forest here has huge redwoods and an understory of sword fern.

On the second night, it's convenient to camp near the Big Basin Redwoods State Park headquarters, which has snacks, showers, and bathrooms. Jay Camp is preferred.

From the park headquarters, the trail turns west and follows Waddell Creek. Be sure to make the side trip to Berry Creek Falls around the nineteen-mile mark.

After the falls, head south and follow a dirt road down forested Waddell Creek canyon.

Pass Twin Redwoods Camp and, where the trail splits around mile 23.5, continue on the singletrack trail to the right. The dirt road to the left heads to the same place, but it's not as scenic.

The trail ends at Waddell Beach.

Contacts

Shared By:

Miguel Vieira

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 17 votes

#1

in Saratoga

#510

Overall
  4.5 from 17 votes
5 Star
59%
4 Star
35%
3 Star
6%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Saratoga

#85

in California

#510

Overall
114 Views Last Month
10,178 Since Jan 24, 2017
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Photos

West Waddell Creek trickles through a verdant forest in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Jan 26, 2017 near Boulder…, CA
Duck under a blowdown covered in beautiful shelf fungi
Jan 5, 2018 near Boulder…, CA
Hollowed out tree towards the start of the Skyline to Sea Trail
Jan 5, 2018 near Boulder…, CA
The Skyline to the Sea Trail hosts a fantastic view of Waddell Beach.
Jan 26, 2017 near Brookdale, CA
West Waddell Creek Crossing explained looking upstream. I honestly had to stop and walk around to notice the downhill section due to the water level.
Jul 13, 2019 near Boulder…, CA
Berry Creek Falls in January 2020
Mar 6, 2020 near Boulder…, CA

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Current Trail Conditions

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Bad / Closed 27 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In

Check-Ins

Feb 23, 2020
Yu Chen Hou
May 27, 2019
Eleonore Prevost
3mi — 1h 00m
Apr 28, 2019
Matt McDaniel
Apr 20, 2019
Britni Rae
Mar 8, 2019
Ivy Meep
from Travertine to Waterman Gap 3mi
Sep 22, 2018
Dion Campbell
Sep 22, 2018
Scott Campbell
With Atlas (4), and Dion (smiles) including Berry Creek falls trail to sunset camp. 41.9mi
Sep 16, 2018
Rafael Peraza