The Skyline to the Sea Loop Trail follows a portion of the 31-mile long Skyline to the Sea Trail, but it incoprorates a bypass trail to create a shorter 4.2-mile loop trail beginning and ending near Waddell Beach. Exploring the southwestern edge of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is California's oldest state park, the Skyline to the Sea Loop begins within view of the Pacific and heads up a wide trail along Waddell Creek before leaving development behind and entering the interior of the forested state park.
Working farms and private residences mark the beginning of the hike, but redwood groves begin to tower above the dense forest floor as the trail reaches the interior, and backcountry campsites are located along the serene creekside. A bridge crosses the creek as the trail hits an intersection with trails heading deeper into the park. The Skyline to the Sea Bypass Trail splits off here, and it begins climbing from the wet forest floor to the dry oak-lined hillside above the valley floor.
Stands of coast redwood dot the oak and grass forest as the trail meanders along the hillside, occasionally opening up to views across the valley or out to the sea. The bypass trail rolls and weaves as it eventually makes its way back to the trailhead at the ranger station.
Hike in a counterclockwise direction and taking the bypass trail on the return saves some of the best scenery for last. There are maps offered at the Bypass Trailhead, and they correspond with numbered posts along the hike if you decide to hike in a clockwise direction.
The bridge at the creek crossing is seasonal, and hikers may have to get wet when crossing the creek in winter when the flows are higher. Dogs and bicycles are allowed on the primary Skyline to the Sea Trail to the backcountry campgrounds; however, neither are allowed on the Bypass Trail. Vault toilets are available at the campgrounds. Note that there is heavy poison oak along the bypass trail. Hikers should be careful.
Parking at the ranger station is resricted to those with reservations for the backcountry campgrounds or by prior arrangement. All others must park outside the gate. There is parking available on the shoulder of Highway 1 opposite Waddell Beach and adjacent to the park entrance gate or at the Waddell Beach parking lot, which is open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset. Water, vault toilets, and trash are available outside the ranger station, located 0.7 miles in from the parking area at Highway 1.