Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
600.00 ft (182.88 m)
Trail type
5.00 mi (8.05 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Achistaca to Saratoga Gap Loop is an easily accessible loop path in the Santa Cruz Mountains that traces rolling hilltop terrain over a course of about 5 miles. The loop trail is made up of portions of three different trails: the Achistaca Trail, the Saratoga Gap Trail, and a short stretch on the top of the Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail to return to the trailhead.

The trails are each well signed and intersect with other trails, allowing hikers to vary the distance they would like to take on. The Achistaca Trail begins about a half-mile west on Highway 9 from the intersection with Skyline Boulevard, with parking at a gravel turnout. The trail follows just below the ridge road on the western slope, alternating between forested shade and open views across the mountains. A signed intersection points to a road crossing that puts hikers on the Saratoga Gap Trail, which returns in the direction of the trailhead on the ridge's eastern slope. Deep ravine chasms line the trail, with a couple views to the distant southern end of the San Francisco Bay below. When the trail reaches the intersection of Highway 9 and Skyline, crossing diagonally leads to a sign that points toward the Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail, which will lead back to the trailhead.

Shady and wet forest conditions are prevalent here, and an abundance of plant and wildlife can be viewed, including a bobcat that was sitting on the trail on my visit. The Achistaca Trail definitely contains the best views. All in all, the rolling trail will accumulate about 600 feet in total elevation gain. Dogs are not permitted on the Achistaca Trail, and while bikes and horses are permitted, both are subject to seasonal restrictions. There is no water available at the trailhead or along the trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Expansive views. Accesses several other trails.


Near highway noise. No dogs.

Trailhead Elevation

2,525.00 ft (769.62 m)

Highest point

2,712.00 ft (826.62 m)


Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.