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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
423.00 ft (128.93 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
4.20 mi (6.76 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 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.

Additional information about visiting Big Basin Redwoods State Park can be found here.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Diversity of fauna along the hike. Scenic creek. Backcountry camping opportunities.

Cons

Strong presence of poison oak.

Trailhead Elevation

7.00 ft (2.13 m)

Highest point

246.00 ft (74.98 m)

Net Elevation Gain

240.00 ft (73.15 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Family friendly
Potable water

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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