Tucked into the Santa Cruz mountains lies a sandstone paradise full of dramatic views, excellent hiking, and coastal redwoods. Bonus: it's just an hour's drive from the Bay Read more...
Tucked into the Santa Cruz mountains lies a sandstone paradise full of dramatic views, excellent hiking, and coastal redwoods. Bonus: it's just an hour's drive from the Bay Area.
Hikers will love the endless trail options. There are 34 miles of trails in the park itself. These trails also connect to a wider network in the adjoining Big Basin and Portola Redwoods State Parks. It’s way more than you can see in a day. Fortunately, there are two walk-in campsites where you can spend the night. Just 2.6 miles from the parking lot on the Saratoga Gap trail, Castle Rock Trail Camp offers 20 sites perched on a ridge. If you camp here, be sure to walk around a bit to find an epic sunset view after you set up camp. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want a guaranteed spot, head to Waterman Gap. It’s a lot further (nine miles) but the sites are reservable. Waterman Gap is also the first stop on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. A three-day trek that takes you from Castle Rock all the way to the sea at Waddell Beach (highly recommended).
Rock climbers will find plenty to do here. The area’s sandstone is riddled with honeycomb-like features called tafoni. These unique features make for some interesting climbing. The climbing here is mostly sport and bouldering but there are a few trad climbs. A lot of routes can also be top roped, making this an excellent area for beginners. If you’re looking for a challenge, try the runout but classic waterfall route. It’s 100 feet of heady leading.
There is no cell service in the park so plan ahead. Dogs are also not allowed. If you want to bring doggo climbing, try nearby Indian Rock, it’s right outside the park boundaries.
The Bay Area’s temperate climate makes any time a great time to visit. It never really gets too hot during the summer. It’s often gorgeously sunny during the winter. Escape those winter doldrums and soak up some vitamin D. Your body will thank you.