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Theme: Long Hikes for Long Summer Days

A 20-Mile Hike through the South Skyline Region

Skyline to Sea

A Mid-Summer Experience

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Book Review: Handbook for Forest and Ranch Roads

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Wild Lit

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Meeting with Pan at Midnight - Rachel Oliver

Apogee - Brian Kunde


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Along the Trail: Member and Volunteer Notes

The Trail Companion

Summer 2000

Theme: Long Hikes for Long Summer Days

Skyline to Sea

     By Tom Davids

"Let no one be alarmed or angry because his ideas of walking are different. There is no orthodoxy in walking. It is a land of many paths and no paths where everyone goes his own way and is right."


The Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail is one of the finest long walks in the Bay Area, one that we try to schedule at least once a year. We usually get sore feet for our efforts and maybe a blister or two, but we are always renewed by this beautiful hike. With trail camps in convenient locations, you can also turn this walk into a leisurely trip of three or four days. The only real complication in completing this full-day hike is the need to arrange for transportation.
      Parking is available at Saratoga Gap, but it is posted for twilight curfew. Public bus service is available from Waddell Beach to Santa Cruz, but check at park headquarters for the current schedule. The safest procedure is to have someone drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other.
      The first part of the trail from Saratoga Gap to Waterman Gap parallels Highways 9 and 236 for about six miles. This is a pleasant walk on a gradual descent from 2,500 to 1,240 feet through laurel, oak, and madrone. Views of the San Lorenzo watershed below on the south side of the highway and your goal--the Pacific Ocean--in the distance are frequently visible from the trail. The trail crosses the highway several times, and the sound of vehicles is common. Toilet facilities and water are available at the Waterman Gap Trail Camp.
      The segment from Waterman Gap to Big Basin State Park Headquarters is about nine and a half miles with a hiking time of about four hours. The trail parallels Highway 236 for four and a half miles, and it crosses the highway several times. There is a fair amount of gentle uphill walking to China Grade (a 600-foot elevation gain), but from there you begin a descent to park headquarters, and the trail moves away from the highway.
      A couple miles from headquarters, the path descends into a redwood forest with a beautiful creek, large moss-covered boulders and redwood stumps, the last remaining evidence of logging activity in the late 1800s. Water is available at the headquarters, and a general store is open during heavy use months. Call the park headquarters at (408) 338-6132 for details.
      From headquarters you have a 12-mile trek to the coast, along the Berry Creek and Waddell Creek trails. The few miles from headquarters to Berry Falls is spectacular--a dark redwood canyon with huge trees, ferns, and a branch of Waddell Creek.
      Take the short side trip to Berry Creek Falls--a series of four waterfalls scouring through the yellow sandstone hills above. During the winter and spring, torrents of water make them a dramatic and unexpected sight reminiscent of the Sierras.
      From here the trail is an old logging road that parallels Waddell Creek. Herbert, Twin Redwood, and Alder camps are available for backpackers. Our favorite is Herbert, only a few miles from the coast.
      After a long but spectacular hike, you're sure to enjoy twilight over the salt marsh bird sanctuary adjacent to Highway 1 at the exit.

Directions: Drop off at Saratoga Gap, Skyline Blvd. and Highway 9. Pick up at Waddell Beach, 29 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1.
Grade: Strenuous. The distance is long, but the elevation drops from 2,500 feet to sea level.
Distance: 27 miles.
Time: 10 to 12 hours of steady walking.
Maps: Big Basin State Park; Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Maps 1-2); Castle Rock SP; USGS 7.5'quads Año Nuevo, Big Basin, Franklin Point, Mindego Hill.

      This hike originally appeared in Tom Davids' "Weekly Walker" column, which is carried by seven SF Peninsula newspapers published by the Independent Newspaper Group. Reprinted by permission. Many of Tom's hikes can be found on hisWeekly Walker website.

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