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The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Stashed in: San Francisco!, California, Out of Doors

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Thoughtful description of the Skyline to the Sea trail, photos seem to be from a spring through-hike.

Most thru-hikers do as they recommend in the article, turning it into a 3 day hike with full kit; but I was foolhardy and time-stressed so I did most of this trail in 2 days in early November, carrying little more than a sandwich and a couple liters of water each day.

The big thing for me was that they close the trail camps on Halloween each year, leaving only one official spot to camp along the whole route: Huckleberry campground in Big Basin, which is conveniently almost exactly halfway along. The conditions are often nice when the trail camps are closed though, and I had tremendous assistance from a friend who was willing to be my support team.

I parked my car Saturday morning by the side of Highway 1 just south of Waddell Beach. It is not legal to park overnight at the beach itself nor in the trail-camp user lot at the Rancho del Oso trailhead once the camps are closed -- but for some reason the roadside is fair game, go figure Santa Cruz County. My friend picked me up from there and we headed into Big Basin to snaffle a campsite. They have first-come first-served campsites available every day I think, where "first-come" can mean as early as 8AM. Lock up the campsite before you start hiking! Then my friend dropped me at Saratoga Gap to begin the long solo hike. I hiked from 9:45AM to 4:30PM, with a half hour break for lunch at deserted Waterman Gap trail camp.

Because I was camping at Huckleberry and I'd already hiked the Sunset area of Big Basin, I chose to deviate from the Skyline to the Sea trail at the East Ridge Trail. I wound my way on little-used East Ridge, Lodge Road, some unnamed road where the park's maintenance facilities are, Sky Meadow road, and Shadowbrook trail to Huckleberry campsite. My friend met me there with food and camping gear and flip-flops for my weary feet.

Next morning I walked an extra couple miles to the Skyline to the Sea trailhead west of park HQ before tackling the last 12 miles or so to my car at Waddell Beach. The section from HQ to Berry Falls is the most scenic, but it also feels like a singles bar -- crowded with groups and young lovers -- and you can hardly enjoy the views of beautiful redwoods because you'll be spending all your time watching your feet for tree roots and slippery rocks. I hiked from 9:45AM to 3:30PM with a quick break for lunch at closed Twin Redwoods trail camp.

Except for the campsite and the singles bar area, I hardly saw anyone on the trail. The first day I ran into exactly two groups -- a family with a teenage daughter who said my thru-hike was AWWWESOME! and a couple walking dogs -- and the second day once I'd passed Berry Falls maybe a dozen quietly walking or biking in the other direction. I'm not gonna lie, it was a hard hike -- partly due to ill-fitting boots -- but it's certainly possible to hike Skyline to the Sea in 2 days rather than 3.

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