Simply put, Skyline to Sea is the jam. Straight up, if you haven’t done this trip, then shame on you (just kidding, it’s cool, but seriously you need to get out there)! Traditionally, this 3-day 29-mile backpacking journey takes you into the heart of 3 different parks. You’re literally walking from one park to the next, with a bag on your back and walking stick in hand, if you’re into that sorta thing. The traditional way of doing this very popular trip is by starting at Saratoga Gap in Castle Rock State Park, cruising through Big Basin on the second day, and finally arriving at Waddell Beach on the last day. It’s mostly downhill, but trust me, you will definitely get the old dogs barking (AKA your legs will be sore). For this particular hike, you need 2 cars. One car needs to be parked at the end of the trail at Waddell Creek Beach; from there you and your amigos drive to Castle Rock State Park and start the trek from the parking lot.
However, being the non-traditional dudes that we are, we decided to take the less-traveled route and start from Portola Redwoods State Park. Apparently this was the more “challenging and remote” route, so we decided to go for it… and what a challenge it was! Our first day consisted of nothing but climbing. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome sweating all over the redwood forests of Portola, but holy crap, this was not for amateurs. As any backpacker knows, your pack is always heaviest on the first day, so our dogs were already barking! This was tough even though I love a good challenge (shirtless rock-throwing competitions are a regular activity for me in the wild); I would suggest passing up on this route unless you are super fit. Instead, opt for the traditional route through Castle Rock. By the time we got to our camp at the Lane Trail Camp we were thoroughly exhausted, but a little Bulleit Rye helped calm our weary bones.
The second day we woke up early, fried some bacon & eggs (yep, I’m one of those dudes that brings a small cast iron with me and packs ice around a slab o’ bacon). Ultralight backpackers will turn their heads with shame, but I’m a big believer in cooking quality food on trips such as these. Yes, your legs will take a little more of a beating, but you know what… the food just tastes so much better. After packing up camp and leaving no trace (or MOOP for you burners), we took off.
We entered what looked like our first old-growth redwood forest. They were small but beautiful, and only increased in size and capacity as we continued. Before we knew it, we were enveloped in the forest’s lush arms. This was the first time we had experienced the big boy grandiose redwoods (not the scientific term) that we were expecting. They were huge and created a fairytale landscape of epic proportions– think Fern Gully on steroids.
The latter portion of the second day consisted of climbing up an impossibly green ravine that leads you from one waterfall to the next. This eventually leads you to the coup de gras, Berry Creek Falls. This is a series of tiered waterfalls, which are absolutely stunning. Apparently it is the “best water in the world.” We were told this by a wandering shirtless (and barefoot) hippy, who had an empty glass jug to fill up at the falls. If you are staying at Sunset Camp, the trail to the falls is literally right above it. This gives you spectacular views as you can look right over the falls and yell at your buddies below. Eventually we descended to Sunset Camp, made a solid meal, drank whiskey, and listened to some quality camping tunes before settling down for the night– the camping ritual.
We awoke on our final day with our minds set on jumping into the ocean as soon as we arrived at Waddell Creek Beach. Although it was about 7-8 miles, it was probably the easiest day. By this point we were glad that it was a bit more mellow, which gave us a chance to really calm our minds and take it all in. It was a reflective day for all of us, and perhaps the most beautiful. As we stood among the massive redwoods and fields of wildflowers, we breathed in the amazing smells of the forest and imagined being in the water. For a large portion of the day, we were walking along a river (okay we had a drought this year, maybe it was more of a creek), but there are a couple of deep portions to hop in. Just do it on a sunny day because it ain’t warm!
After a liter of water, a pack of beef jerky, a couple of dips in the creek, and lots of laughs, we ended up at Waddell Creek Beach. We smiled, gave each other high fives and nods of approval. The Skyline to Sea was complete and it was even more epic than we had imagined. Now on to the next goal… a cold beer!
For all of you that were enticed by this trip report and want to get the heck out there… Check out Castle Rock and Big Basin on the Hipcamp site for more deets. We highly suggest you book and commit (it’s just a quick phone call)– you will not be sorry!
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