State Park Trifecta is a 27.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Lorenzo Park, California that features a river. The loop travels through Castle Rock, Big Basin, and Portola Redwoods.
This may be the longest direct loop hike available in the peninsula. The nearly 30 mile loop covers three state parks (Castle Rock, Big Basin, and Portola Redwoods), a county park (Pescadero Creek Park), and a Mid Peninsula Regional Open District (Long Ridge Open Space Preserve). This is all made possible by well positioned easements that allow for narrow but critical routes in between the parks. If you're looking for a good weekend hike that loops, this may be your best bet in the South Bay.
Campsites: There are three nearly equidistant campsites along the trail; Waterman Gap Trail Camp, Lane Trail Camp, Slate Creek Trail
Campground. No matter where you start the hike, you'll also have a campground within roughly 10 miles. Reservations are required in advance.
Parking: There are three overnight parking lots; at Big Basin Park HQ, Portola Redwoods Park HQ, and at the main Castle Rock entrance. Parking at the latter will add a few miles distance. There are also several places where one could get dropped off and hop on the Skyline to Sea Trail.
Historical Sites: There are two historical sites along the way, the Iverson Cabin and the Page Mill Site (original site of Mr. Page's Mill and road). There is not much to see at the sites except a marker and a sign, but it's nice to connect with some of the region's 19th century history.
Variations: If you're looking for a longer route, you can extend this trail by pushing further into either Castle Rock, Big Basin, and even Pescadero Creek Park, as long as you make it to the easement cross points. Pushing further into these parks can easily help you come up with a 50-60 mile loop if you really wanted.
Trail info for the parts encompassing:
- Skyline to Sea: Good trail but proximity to Highway 9 causes it to lose some of the isolation charm. Great views of redwoods though. Well trafficked popular trail.
- Basin Trail
: The relatively higher elevation presents a very different vegetation, with shorter trees and more bushes, where one can capture some nice long distance views.
- Basin Trail Easement
: All the property mark signs on the first part of the trail made me just want to get through it and across. The second part of the trail felt like it didn't get a lot of foot traffic but was well marked and maintained.
- Butano Ridge Trail
: Sharp switchbacks take you down almost 1500 feet of elevation. Nice scenery.
- Summit Trail
: Sounds like it would be a tough hike based on the name but it was only about a 600 foot elevation climb.
- Slate Creek Trail
: Well maintained and nice trail. Runs by a river for most of the distance.
- Ward Road
Trail: Connects Portola Redwoods State Park to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve... biggest elevation change of the entire trail here. The wide trail that really is more of a road. Something to get through, though there are some nice long views available.
- Hickory Oaks Trail
: Best long views of the entire hike here as one can see into the entire valley before re-connecting with the Skyline to the Sea Trail
Trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. There are several rivers along the way to refill water, but it would be worth planning for those in advance as there are some long stretches with no river access.