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Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains
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Dylan Taylor
(nevadas) - F

Locale: California Coast
Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains on 04/22/2008 22:37:27 MDT Print View

I did this trail over the weekend as an overnighter. it ended up being about 35 1/2 miles, as i did a small detour to stay at sunset camp and view the series of three waterfalls along the way.

i had the opportunity to use my new suunto vector-- so the elevation ended up being about 6500 descent and 3500 vertical-- nothing major.

the trail itself was incredible. the beginning is a bit confusing because the trailhead is a highway intersection with no posted sign for the trail. walking down the south side of the road about a tenth of a mile i saw the sign and dropped down below the one lane road.

old school sign with old school tagging

you continue along the road for the next 20 miles, crossing the highway about 3 times.

the weather was unsettled. a few waves of hail fell as i was heading down the ridge. the wind was also a factor. but the coolness also allowed a faster pace and i cut through the oak and manzanita hills. you pass a couple of cars that have gone off the road and never been recovered. they're all rusty... spooky.

you have this creepy feeling when wondering if the person walked away from this

there is a trail camp ten miles in that has piped in water. i tanked up and moved on.

ten miles later i came upon the big basin park headquarters. that place too has water next to the main building. there were way too many people for me to even consider staying there; according to the map, there are some backcountry camps but no way, too many people. i didnt even bother getting an overnight permit either for sunset camp.

its funny... b/c i was carrying like a 5 pound pack, my ion, not a single person ever thought i was doing the whole trail as an overnighter.

the third section, from the HQ to berry falls, its a tremendous walk. the oaks turn to redwood and pines. hte air turned thick and stillness settled in. the late afternoon sun through the trees was like a religious moment!

the Mystery

about 6 miles down there is a series of three waterfalls. i was fatigued and hungry so i didnt linger too long that first evening to look at them... i could feel the 25 miles and was ready to eat and sleep. you leave the skyline to the sea trail to head up to the backcountry camp... its like a a mile up and its seemed like forever as i thinking only of food food food.

too bad all the camps were taken at sunset camp but i found a little flat spot off a trail where i inconspicuously set up for the evening. fyi, that spot was in between the lower and upper sections of the camp on a random trail that heads back down the hill.

it rained a little that night. i was wondering if my SMD poncho/ tarp would leak as i havent sealed the seams but it didnt. i stayed dry and relatively warm. it dipped down to about 41 inside the tarp in the early morning hours-- thanks again to the suunto.

the next morning was glorious. wildflowers were blossoming in the lower elevations. i was stoked! the three waterfalls are a highlight of this route so its nice that you get to go by them twice. i took my time and took some pictures. of course, it was April 20th, so that probably impacted my casual pace at the onset and my elated mood...

golden falls

berry falls

redwoods at the base of the falls

the last 9 miles is half down a fire road, which was pretty nondescript, then a single track following a contour around the last two ridges. the poison oak along that section was epic. i think i made it out without any damage. in several parts, it encroached across the trail so much that i had to do a quasi limbo dance to avoid it.

anyway, this is a great trail and highly recommended. for all its strengths, the greatest drawback is that it is so accessible to people who can park all along its length and just drop onto it. this time of the year wasnt too bad but i could see it being worse in the summer months.

there is something satisfying about coming from a ridgeline and dropping down all the way to the ocean, taking off your shoes and putting your feet in the water. i guess thats why they named it the way they did. too bad it was way too windy down on the beach and much too cold to put my feet in, plus i had a nasty blister on my heel that i didnt want touching salt water.

the ocean comes into view

Edited by nevadas on 04/23/2008 19:01:39 MDT.

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Nice report on 04/22/2008 23:15:48 MDT Print View

Very nice report and photos for Skyline to the Sea, I really like that trail, and would like to go back and do it again as an ultralight hiker.

What was your gear list for the trip - I gleaned the Golite Ion and SMD Gatewood.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Nice report on 04/23/2008 06:03:58 MDT Print View

Sounds great! - those pics ain't too shabby either! ;)

Dylan Taylor
(nevadas) - F

Locale: California Coast
gear list on 04/23/2008 19:14:01 MDT Print View

golite ion
3/4 ridgerest rolled inside
SMD gatewood cape
GG polycro ground sheet
golite wisp
montbell ul wind pants (first use of them--very impressed)
WM down vest
WM highlite
BPL 500 titanium mug
BPL titanium long handled spoon
coffee filter
brasslite turbo ii-f w/ 3 ounces alcohol (one ounce for dinner, the other two for coffee)
mini lighter
small med kit - ul set modified from the WMI first aid kit
sierus all weather gloves
balaclava - midweight
gerber lst knife
petzl e+lite
extra set of running socks

Edited by nevadas on 04/24/2008 12:12:00 MDT.

Frank Perkins

Locale: North East
Re: Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains on 04/23/2008 19:43:45 MDT Print View

Great report and nice gear list Dylan. The abandoned car pic made me think of Into the Wild.

Thanks for sharing.

Jay Well
(jwell) - F

Locale: Willamette Valley
Re: Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains on 04/23/2008 19:53:28 MDT Print View

Love the pictures. What type of camera did you use, I didn't see it in the gear list.

Dylan Taylor
(nevadas) - F

Locale: California Coast
Re: Re: Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains on 04/23/2008 22:15:15 MDT Print View

yeah, i see i forgot that... its an older sony cybershot 3.2 meg thats takes vids and pics. i think its around 6 or 7 ounces, if my memory serves me correctly.

Ben Egan

Locale: The Grid, Brooklyn
A beautiful trail on 05/30/2008 00:03:06 MDT Print View

I've hiked that trail a few times, backwards and forwards, and you definitely did it justice. Amazing photos, classic Santa Cruz Mountains.

And the one with the tiny waterfall, with the soft-orangish clay, I'm pretty sure I used that as a slide on my last trip . . . just before Sunset Camp, and immediately after the falls you climb with the railing (which is insanely scary), right?

Anyway, I'm gonna go check out your gear list now.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Skyline 2 Sea Trail on 05/30/2008 07:34:04 MDT Print View

Nice report, Nice pictures - April seems like the perfect time to do that trail. More poison oak later in the season and less people in April-definelty on my to do list next year.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
skyline to the sea on 05/30/2008 09:25:41 MDT Print View

Nice pics Dylan. Did the same trip last year as an overnighter. Could not help but feel that I could call my wife (I live 20 minutes or so from Big Basin) and gone home for the night instead of sleeping at the crowded park HQ. Fun hike!!!!

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Skyline to the Sea Trail, Santa Cruz Mountains on 05/30/2008 10:21:50 MDT Print View

> Could not help but feel that I could call my wife (I live 20 minutes or so from Big Basin) and gone home for the night instead of sleeping at the crowded park HQ.


In Feb. 2004 my Dad and I did exactly that (went home to Felton to sleep rather than staying in the park HQ). I don't recommend the first portion of this hike as it follows a road the entire way. To see the waterfalls my wife and I ride bikes from Wadell Beach. I hate hiking when I can ride a bike.