Skyline-to-the-Sea (6/21-6/22)

A much-belated recap of Tiff & Tiff Go Backpacking, Take 1!

Skyline-to-the-Sea has been on my to do list since high school, and I finally convinced someone to hike it with me. TiffHu valiantly came with me and subjected herself to knee-and-ankle torture and unreliable maps for the 30-something miles of backpacking through the redwood groves of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Read on for the recap and photos, plus alternate itineraries and planning tips if you’re interested in hiking it yourself. For a more colorful commentary replete with spelling mistakes, check out TiffHu’s recap.

Day 0 – Friday

Last-minute dry food shopping after work, then packing and filling water bottles. All set to head out at some obscene hour in the morning!

Day 1 – Saturday

5:30am – Wake up, feel cranky
6:00am – Breakfast at TiffHu’s
6:45am – Drive up to Castle Rock (no overnight parking is available at Saratoga Gap)
7:15am – Arrive at Castle Rock parking lot, display parking permits like good citizens and sunscreen up.
7:30am – Fearless hikers depart! We took the Saratoga Gap Trail to Castle Rock Trail Camp, then the Travertine Springs Trail and Saratoga Toll Road Trail to the main Skyline-to-the-Sea trail.


7:32am – Uh so how many bottles of bug spray do we have? One nearly empty bottle? Shit.
9:30am – Heading into hour 3. Skyline is behind us. No sign of the sea.

12:00pm – Arrive at Waterman Gap Trail Camp (9.8 miles in), stop to refill water and eat Clif bars and a ton of dried food. The going has been pretty good due to the steady downhill, but we have another 6.2 miles to go.
12:30pm – Onwards!

TiffHu heads down the trail
TiffHu heads down the trail (not trial)

12:45pm – Miraculously have reception and let Melissa, BFF4L, that yes indeed, we will need a pickup tomorrow afternoon. Take opportunity to take another selfie.


12:55pm – Right after Waterman Gap, we find ourselves crossing and then re-crossing, then crossing again the highway around the Highway 9 / Highway 236 junction. Apparently this is normal.

wtf is this uphill bullshit
1:24pm – wtf is this uphill bullshit. I thought this trail was all downhill?
2:06pm - Peacock encounter in the woods??? (~12 miles in)
2:06pm – Peacock encounter in the woods??? (~12 miles in)

4:00pm – Arrive at Basin Trail fork (14.2 miles in). Immense confusion ensues: trail fork post reads 3.2 miles to Lane Trail Camp, map says 1.8 miles. Actual distance completely unknown. Forge onward anyway.

4:51pm - At least the view is nice. STILL CAN’T SEE THE SEA.
4:51pm – At least the view is nice. STILL CAN’T SEE THE SEA.
4:52pm - Selfie time again! Someone's crashing
4:52pm – Selfie time again! Someone’s photobombing…

5:30pm – It must be just around this turn… damn it.
6:00pm – …where is TiffHu?
6:05pm – Pass nice couple. They have indeed seen the campsite! It’s about 100 yards up ahead!
6:10pm – It’s been way over 100 yards. Do those people know how to measure???


6:15pm – Arrive at Lane Trail Camp (~17.4 miles in), which is decidedly NOT 1.8 miles from the fork. Drop things and go fetch TiffHu.
6:30pm – Successfully sherpa TiffHu to the campsite. We set up for dinner — no water at Lane, so our drinking water goes towards couscous and instant mashed potatoes. Dinner of champions, finished off with a chocolate bar for dessert!
6:35pm – Hour 12. Still no sign of the sea. The mosquito situation is becoming dire. Case of mosquito net massive miscommunication becomes apparent. I refuse to cuddle.
7:00pm – Water situation is no cause for alarm, but minimal water is rationed for cleaning. Who wants potato flavored oatmeal tomorrow morning???


7:24pm – TiffHu is fully enclosed in anti-mosquito gear. The dried mangoes are also enclosed. She proceeds to elevate swollen knee and ankle. She looks like a metamorphosing caterpillar.


7:26pm – I am fully enclosed in my sleeping bag, with my face doused in the remaining bug spray. I look like a demented caterpillar.

7:30pm - Look how peaceful the sky is! Let me take a picture.
7:30pm – Look how peaceful the sky is! Let me take a picture.

7:31pm – Tiff & Tiff are PTFO
10:15pm – Wake up super overheated from my sleeping bag. Unzip everything and brave the mosquitoes, which apparently have gone to sleep.

DAY/TOTAL MILEAGE: approx. 17.4 miles covered from Castle Rock parking lot to Lane Trail Camp.

Day 2 – Sunday

6:30am – Alarm goes off. Hit TiffHu.
7:30am – Realize alarm went off an hour ago. Actually wake up and make breakfast

7:40am – Breakfast of potato-flavored oatmeal! Pack up camp.
8:30am – Head out! Hollow Creek Trail to Hollow Tree Trail down to rejoin the Skyline to the Sea Trail into Big Basin Redwoods State Park
9:30am – Arrive at junction with Hollow Tree Trail (1.9 miles in for the day)


9:39am – Cross sketchy bridge
10:03AM - Trees!
10:03AM – Trees!
10:07am - Stop to hang out with a banana slug
10:07am – Stop to hang out with a banana slug


10:15am – Arrive back at Skyline to the Sea Trail (3.3 miles in for the day) and head towards Big Basin HQ


11:00am – Arrive at Big Basin HQ (6 miles in for the day) after walking on the road instead of the up-and-down trail for a bit. Refill water and eat some snacks.
11:30am – Onwards on the Sunset Trail and back over the Skyline to the Sea Trail to cut a little mileage
2:15pm – Arrive at Berry Creek Falls (6.6 miles in for the day) and eat lunch.

2:22pm - Berry Creek Falls
2:22pm – Berry Creek Falls
2:23pm - TiffHu elevates some more
2:23pm – TiffHu elevates some more

2:45pm – Onwards!

3:06pm - Crossing a creek
3:06pm – Crossing a creek

5:00pm – Arrive at Twin Redwoods Trail Camp (11.6 miles in for the day) and trudge onward.

Handy sign!
5:45pm - AT LAST, THE SEA.
5:45pm – AT LAST, THE SEA.

5:50pm – arrive at Waddell Beach! (~13.4 miles in for the day). No cell reception.

Tiff & Tiff made it to the sea!
Tiff & Tiff made it to the sea!

6:10pm – convince friendly dude on the beach not to kill us and please take us to Davenport for cell reception, or all the way to Santa Cruz
6:35pm – arrive at my friend’s house in Santa Cruz, where our actual ride (Melissa) meets us. After dinner and ice cream, we head back to Castle Rock, pick up the car, and go home.

DAY MILEAGE: 19.1 miles from Lane via Hollow Tree to Waddell Beach
TOTAL MILEAGE: 36.5 miles!?


  • The trip we took was short on time but long on daily mileage. We did our best to lighten up our packs, but we also could have gone with no hot food (no stove or pot needed) and no water filter (refill on drinkable water at the various camps along the trail).
  • The car situation is the trickiest part. Some options:
    • If you have two cars and some spare time: Drive one car to Waddell Beach the night before you depart. Two cars drive there, leave a car, and take both drivers back. You’ll need to pay for an extra parking permit to do this.
    • If you have a BFF* who’s willing to drive a lot during the afternoon: Be willing to walk a little extra until you get cell service (~2 miles is my guess) OR be willing to hitch a ride to Davenport or Santa Cruz (or somewhere with cell service) with a friendly stranger who may kill you OR make sure that BFF likes to hang out at the beach, and have them wait around for you at Waddell on the afternoon when you’re supposed to emerge from the forest like Sasquatch
    • If you have a BFF* who’s willing to drive a lot early in the morning, AND you have two cars the night before: Leave a car at Waddell the night before; you’ll use your parking permit on that car. Have your BFF drive you to Castle Rock the next morning.
    • If you have none of the above, I recommend you find some BFF*s. Hitchhiking is illegal, and public transit is awful ‘round these parts. (* who is not quite FF enough to backpack with you)
  •  Alternate itineraries include: 2 day/2 night (camp at Castle Rock and Jay), 3 day/2 night (camp at Waterman Gap and Jay)
  • You can also check out trail camp reservation information here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *