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Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike

Castle Rock State Park

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike

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  • Parking at Castle Rock State Park.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trailhead,- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Start down the Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap intersects the Ridge Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Rock formations along the Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Viewpoint along the Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Views of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Santa Cruz Mountains.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Castle Rock State Park.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Well marked and accurate trail signs.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Rock stairs with a wire hand rail on the Saratoga Gap Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Trail near the Castle Rock Campground.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Camping site at Castle Rock Campground.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Views from the Ridge Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Boulders along the Ridge Trail.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Sedimentary rock erosion.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Short trail to Emily Smith Observation Point.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • View from Emily Smith Observation Point, Castle Rock State Park.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Interpretive shelter.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Back toward the Ridge Trail from the interpretive shelter.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Stairs leading around Goat Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Climbing Goat Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Climbing Goat Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Group of rock climbers waiting to climb Goat Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Climbing Castle Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Castle Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • Castle Rock.- Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
  • - Saratoga Gap, Ridge Trail + Castle Rock Loop Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Amazing rock formations. Beautiful views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Cons: 
Constant gun fire from a nearby gun range.
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Region:
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
200.00 ft (60.96 m)
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,900.00 ft (883.92 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

If a Bay Area day hike with some amazing views is on your list of things to do, Castle Rock State Park should definitely be a consideration. Rock climbers, hikers, and backcountry campers can all find enjoyment here. With over 6 miles of hiking trails, multiple climbing access points, camping, and vistas all the way to the Monterey Bay, you can be sure you can fill your day with things to do. 

Two main trails connect to make a loop that circumnavigate the park. Saratoga Gap Trail and Ridge Trail are your main thoroughfares with shorter, interconnecting trails between the two. A shorter loop taking you to Castle Rock, the geological formation from which this park gets it's name, can be found from the Saratoga Gap Trailhead via Castle Rock Trail or from the parking lot.  

Saratoga Gap Trail starts off an easily meandering through trees and around boulders as it proceeds toward the Castle Rock Campground. About 1.5 miles down Saratoga Gap you will intersect with the Ridge Trail Trailhead. Here you can choose to take this to Goat Rock, Interpretive Shelter, or just continue down Saratoga Gap to the campground. Either way you will eventually end up at the Castle Rock Campground where you can rest and fill your water bottle.

Saratoga Gap Trail and Ridge Trail both have amazing views of the Santa Cruz Mountains that reach all the way to Monterey Bay. One moment you are under the cover of the tree canopy, and the next you break out into the open with the trail hugging the ridge. The trails are well marked and accurate, so the trail is not too difficult to navigate. However, there are a few places where you'll need to scramble over boulders. There is even a section where stairs have been cut into the hillside and a wire handrail has been attached.

Make sure you fill up your water bottle as you prepare to leave, as there is no place to fill it from the parking lot. You must hike to the campground if you wish to have access to water. Also, depending on the day, the sound of gunfire from the nearby gun range can be tough to ignore. Nevertheless, between the trails, geology, and climbing opportunities, this is a very worthwhile park to explore.

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(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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