“An amazing hike from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
— Miguel Vieira
Reservations are required for the trail camps. Some camps are closed during the winter.
This hike takes you from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains through ancient redwood forests to windswept Waddell Beach on the Pacific Ocean.
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.