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Skyline to the Sea Trail Professional Review and Guide
"From the crest of the Santa Cruz Range to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the Skyline to the Sea Trail is the reigning monarch of the elaborate Santa Cruz Mountains trail system. The first segment of this trail, from Saratoga Gap to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, was constructed in 1969 by 2,500 enthusiastic volunteers in a single weekend. Since that time, the idea has grown and the trail has been extended to the ocean."
--Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall, 100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra & Coast Range (The Mountaineers Books).
Just finished this trip and brought along with me a first-time backpacker. I agree that this is a perfect first-timer's experience. We added a little to it and made the second day a little longer than normal. We started out at Castle Rock SP off Skyline Blvd. The first day had 12 miles to Waterman Gap Camp and offered beautiful vistas. The only downside was the mile and a half through a private residential area right before Saratoga Gap and the sounds from the shooting range near Castle Rock Trail Camp. The second day, we bypassed Jay Camp at big Basin HQ and went on the Sunset Trail from HQ on to Sunset Camp. Made for a doable 15 mile day. The first 10 miles to Big Basin intertwined through Hwy 9 and 236. Once we got onto the Sunset Trail, it was a pretty strenuous 5 miles to the camp, where we arrived just before sundown. No potable water. Third day made for an easy 7 miler down to Ano Nuevo and our Jeep. Passing 3 beautiful waterfalls on Berry Creek Trail. We also found a nice, fresh spring to refill our water. All in all, very refreshing and rewarding trip. Would recommend to anyone of any level for a nice 3 day weekend.
Great Trip!!! I had been eying it for years and it was worth the wait. Awesome views, decent trails for the most part. Great trip to introduce someone to backpacking. If you want to feel totally lost in nature then I would suggest using a combination of different trails to bypass Big Basin hq but either way the fact that you cross hwy 9 a few times once you get on the south side of waterman gap pulls you out of the deep wilderness mentality fast. This however does help make it a perfect introduction to backpacking trip for new backpackers, and the relative closeness to civilization helps those who might be apprehensive about venturing out into the woods on their first backpacking trip. I know from experience I brought along a first timer on this last trip and he did great, the fact that little amenities like flushing toilets and fireplaces were right there on night two in Jay Camp at Big Basin made the trip very doable for him. This is a great trip and I would highly recommend it for everyone from the advanced to the novice backpacker, the vistas, waterways, and trail sights make this an excellent 3 day weekend (can be done in two but I wouldn't recommend rushing and missing the sights).
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