Skyline to the Sea Trail, Castle Rock & Big Basin State Parks

BRIEF SUMMARY Mist, ferns, and towering redwoods line 32 miles of trail from the top of Skyline Ridge all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This overnight hike provides a near complete experience of the Santa Cruz mountains rich with history, plant life, animal life, and riparian beauty.

Trip Planning
Distance: 32 miles (Castle Rock to Waddell Beach)
Cumulative Elevation: 5,100ft
High Point: 2,550ft
Low Point: Sea Level
Location: Castle Rock State Park, & Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Description: Mist, ferns, and towering redwoods line 32 miles of trail from the top of Skyline Ridge all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This overnight hike provides a near complete experience of the Santa Cruz mountains rich with history, plant life, animal life, and riparian beauty.
Permit/Fees: Park your car in the parks parking lot off Highway 35 (approximately 3 miles south of the Highway 9 and Highway 35 junction). Use the self- registration "Iron Ranger" envelopes to register. $8 per car. Note that the ranger closes the gates to the parking lot between sundown and sunrise.

Trail Camp Reservations are required as the camps often fill up, call
(831) 338-8861. Reservations are taken Monday though Saturday only from
10am to 5pm only. There is a one time non-refundable reservation fee of $8.00 After calling in your reservation, mail your $8.00 reservation fee to 21600 Big
Basin Way Boulder Creek, Ca. 95006.
Contact: Big Basin:
21600 Big Basin Way Boulder Creek, CA 95006
(831) 338-8861

Castle Rock:
Highway 35, just 3 miles southeast of the junction of Highway 35 & Highway 9.
(408) 867-2952

Waddell Creek - Rancho Del Oso:
Drive north from Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 for 17 miles to the Waddell Creek Bridge (you are there).
(831) 425-1218
Water: Water is available at Castle Rock, Waterman Gap, Jay Camp, & Big Basin. Creek water is available, but must be treated.
Bathrooms: Yes. Available in all of the parks. Not on trails.
Address: See Google Map for Castle Rock starting address (Highway 35, just 3 miles southeast of the junction of Highway 35 & Highway 9).
Parking: $8 for overnight parking at Castle Rock. $10 per car at Big Basin.
Book: Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book
Map: Recommendations Wanted
Additional Info: I recommend starting at Skyline.
About Google Maps for Directions:
This is a GPS location. Just enter your "From" address in Google Maps and the directions Google provides will take you to this location.
Castle Rock Parking:

View Larger Map
Big Basin Parking:

View Larger Map
Waddell Creek Beach Parking:

View Larger Map


  1. A short piece by Tom Stienstra about Berry Creek Falls on the Skyline to the Sea Trail:

    Berry Creek Falls is the No. 1 hiking destination of any park in the greater Bay Area’s nine counties. It’s one of my favorite spots in the world. I try to hike it every year in the spring for a personal birthday present. Ryan Commons at provided this video for me to post and share with the public.

    Berry Creek Falls and its canyon is the crown jewel of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, located near Boulder Creek deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

    Berry Creek Falls is 4.7 miles from the trailhead at Big Basin’s headquarters, and for most, takes less than two hours to reach. The complete loop, which includes venturing up the canyon to see Silver Falls and the Golden Fall Cascades, is 12 miles and takes 5.5 hours. I’ll hike it in the next month or so and post a gallery and waterfall video of the complete trip.

    My favorite single spot in the Bay Area is just above the brink of Silver Falls. You can reach out and touch the water, then take a few steps upstream and see lower Golden Cascade.

  2. Excellent Article from the San Jose Mercury's Paul Rogers:

    Castle Rock State Park saved from the closure list

    By Paul Rogers

    Castle Rock State Park, a rugged expanse of Douglas fir and madrone trees known for its sweeping views to the Pacific Ocean and honeycombed sandstone rock formations, will be removed from the state's closure list.

    Under a deal set to be announced Wednesday, the popular park, which sits atop the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz county line, will receive a $250,000 donation -- enough to keep it open for another year -- from the Sempervirens Fund, a nonprofit conservation group in Los Altos.

    "We've been worried that once it closed, it might be a permanent closure," said Reed Holderman, executive director of the fund. "This is a difficult period of time. Everybody needs to do what they can to get through it. We view this as a one-year reprieve, but we haven't solved the problem. How do we keep parks open and make them self-sustaining?"

    The deal also will open up 1,340 acres on the park's southern boundary that have been closed to the public for more than a decade. And another plan in the works would construct a new park entrance on Summit Road, creating a distinctive trailhead for one of the most storied hikes in the Bay Area.

    In an effort to save $22 million statewide, Gov. Jerry Brown announced last year that 70 parks -- one quarter of California's system of 280 state parks -- will close by July 1. If the closures go through, as expected, Brown would become the first governor in the 110-year history

  3. Does one only have to pay the $8 if they are going to park overnight?

    Also, I am ridiculously out of shape but still want to enjoy the Santa Cruz mountains next weekend - do you have any recommendations for me? I hiked half way up Soberanes a couple weeks ago, but my husband made us turn back because we left the dogs at home in a crate and I was taking too long. My spouse of course, is special forces and runs marathons so he thinks these are all little girly hikes to him. Oh well.

    1. Fitness Recommendations...for sure:
      1) Find a walking or running pace that is comfortable for you and start going out for 45 minutes a day for 5 days each week.
      2) If you don't have any problems after two weeks, start gradually increasing 1 or 2 of the days up to 1 hour or longer for weekend hikes.
      3) Stick to the plan and increase intensity for 1 of the 45 minute workouts.
      4) Purchase hiking poles to improve speed on uphills and downhills
      5) Tell your spouse that I say, "thank you for your service" and then stick a few rocks in his pack.

      I hope this helps. Please let me know.


    2. I meant more like trail recommendations. I have a couple things working against me, like really really bad ankles. I broke them multiple times when I was in cheerleading, and so now I have trouble walking on them from time to time. I am determined to not let this hold me back though.

  4. I'd love to buy a print of that picture. You really really need to start an etsy store. Also, you could easily put a paypal thing on this for readers to donate to. I'm sure I am not the only person reading this blog. Although, I found it from your YouTube videos.


      How is that for responsiveness?

  5. I'm pretty sure you pay for the day parking also.

    Regarding pictures for printing, send me a screen shot of any pictures you like and I'll email you the jpeg or RAW file. My email is

    I appreciate your support and am happy to send without charge.


  6. We just got back from Big Basin, and it cost $10 for a day parking pass. We hiked from the main campgrounds up the Skyline Trail over to the Sequoia trail. We stopped by Slippery Rock and the Supervirens Waterfall. Both were cool, but for some reason I wasn't able to capture very good pictures of them. I seem to have a problems with my light meter.

  7. I've just backpacked Silver Peak Wilderness, and besides being stalked by a mountain lion the last day, the landslides destroying trails really scared me. I love hiking, but I'm really scared of heights, especially so when the trails are non-existent or insanely narrow. Are there any points in 32 miles where I might face a similar problem? I've already hiked Castle Rock in the summer so I'm comfortable with those types of trails.