California State Parks Backpacking Adventures


ALL 2020 and 2021 Trips have been CANCELLED due to COVID-19.

Though we cannot say officially yet, we hope to return for the summer of 2022. 

We will continue to post updates here and on social media as we learn more.

Thank you, and we hope to see you out on the trails soon!


Imagine if the Santa Cruz Mountains could speak....

Travel from spectacular ridgelines, through old growth redwood forests, to sandy shores with our knowledgeable team of backcountry naturalists. We will share the secrets of this precious wilderness and give you a window into the lives of the people who lived here for thousands of years.

Portola to the Sea

Silver FallsChallenge yourself to top the beloved Skyline to the Sea route with CASPBA’s new Portola to the Sea route on this 3-night, 4-day excursion. The route travels through some of the most remote trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains and includes two nights at the iconic Sunset Trail Camp. Beginning in Portola Redwoods State Park at peak elevation, backpackers travel through multiple ecosystems, ending their journey at the spectacular Waddell Beach for a dip in the sea to wash off the trail dust.

Difficulty: strenuous

Shuttle Location/Time: Shuttle to starting location departs from Waddell Beach at 10:00am*
Starting Location/Time:
 Portola Redwoods Employee Parking Lot; 11:30am
Ending Location/Time: Waddell State Beach; about 4pm
Total Mileage: approximately 29.3 miles
Day 1: Portola Employee Parking Lot to Lane Campground: approximately 6 miles
Day 2: Lane Camp to Sunset Camp: approximately 6.7 miles
Day 3: **OPTIONAL** Day Hike to Chalks Mountain Peak: approximately 9.4 miles
Day 4: Sunset Camp to Waddell State Beach: approximately 7.2 miles

*An email with shuttle details will be sent one week prior to trip.

Skyline to the Sea

This 3-night, 4-day outing from Castle Rock to Waddell State Beach takes you on the legendary journey that has been a favorite of backpackers for 40 years. This trek spans 30+ miles of stunning ridgeline panoramas, mixed oak, madrone and redwood forests, riparian habitats, grassy meadows, spring-fed waterfalls, ending on the soft sandy beach. Adventurers will hike up to 10 miles a day, up steep hills and over sunny ridges on this challenging trip. This is the quintessential Santa Cruz Mountains backpacking experience.


Difficulty: strenuous

Shuttle Location/Time: Shuttle to starting location departs from Waddell Beach at 7:30am*
Starting Location/Time:
 Castle Rock State Park Parking Lot; 9am
Ending Location/Time: Waddell State Beach; about 4pm
Total Mileage: approximately 33.5 miles
Day 1: Castle Rock Parking Lot to Waterman Gap Campground: approximately 10 miles
Day 2: Waterman Gap to Jay Camp** via Skyline Trail: approximately 10 miles
Day 3: Jay Camp to Sunset Camp: approximately 6 miles
Day 4: Sunset Camp to Waddell State Beach: approximately 7.5 miles

*An email with shuttle details will be sent one week prior to trip.
**Jay Camp is located in Big Basin Headquarters and facilities include a general store and showers. 

 In Pursuit of Perseids

Stargazing in Pursuit of PerseidsJourney through Castle Rock to watch shooting stars in the quiet and darkness of the backcountry on this 1-night, 2-day trip. While the highlight of this exploration is the meteor shower, daylight brings panoramic ocean and mountain views as you hike through oak woodlands and chaparral-covered ridgelines.  

Difficulty: moderate

Starting Location/ time: Castle Rock State Park parking lot; 1pm
Ending Location/ time: Castle Rock State Park parking lot; 4pm
Total Mileage: approximately 10.5 miles
Day 1: Castle Rock State Park parking lot to Castle Rock Trail Camp; approximately 3 miles
Day 2: Castle Rock Trail Camp to Castle Rock State Park parking lot; approximately 3 miles

Basic Trip Information

All mileage is based on the 2015 edition of the Redwood Hikes map of the Bay Area. Some GPS and other personal trackers may provide alternative mileage results.

Participants must be able to hike 2-3 miles/hour with a 20lb pack.


  • WE provide:
    - water filters
    - hot water for AM/PM meals
    - traditional teas
    - *Shuttle between start and ending location for: Skyline to the Sea, Ridges to Redwoods, and Trek through Time.
  • YOU provide:
    transportation to starting location
    - bring all your own food
    - be able to hike up to 10 miles per day
    - tent/sleeping bag/ sleeping pad
    - all equipment on checklist

To complete registration, it is mandatory to submit the Liability Release Form and the Photo Release Form(optional). To download these forms, please click here.

Participation is open to adults 18 or over, and children ages 13 to 17 accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Cancellation Policy
Reservations are NON-TRANSFERABLE and may only be used by the original registrant. A 50% refund will be issued if you cancel more than 60 days before your trip. Cancellations less than 60 days notice are NON-REFUNDABLE.


What do I bring?
CASPBA participants are responsible for bringing their own backpack with waist straps, tent, sleeping bag and pad, and all of their food. (We recommend dehydrated “just add hot water meals” and other nonperishable food.) Backpacking participants should also bring warm layered clothing, rain gear (weather dependent), sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses), water bottles or hydration reservoirs (to carry at least 3 liters), eating utensils (cup, bowl, spork), headlamp or flashlight, personal medications, basic first aid kit, personal hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.).

A more comprehensive packing list can be found here.

Participants also must arrange their own transportation to the starting point of the hike.

What will be provided?
Backpacking leaders will provide plenty of drinking water (filtered and/or treated), boiling hot water to prepare “just add hot water meals” (morning and evening) and coffee/tea, camp stoves and fuel (for boiling water), basic first aid items and traditional teas.

What are the physical requirements for the hike?
Participants must be able to hike 2-3 miles per hour with a 20-pound pack, and be prepared to hike up to 10 miles per day.

Are there age restrictions?
Participation is open to adults 18 and older, and children ages 13-17 when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What kind of shoes should I wear?
Hiking boots or hiking shoes are recommended.

What facilities are available? Picnic tables, a grill, trash, recycling, bathrooms or showers?
Stumps, logs, rocks and the ground are the primary facilities provided by the forest. Trail camps have pit toilets and some have picnic tables. Hikers must pack their trash.

What is the food situation?
Participants must bring all their own food. We recommend dehydrated “just add hot water meals” and other nonperishable food. Here is a Sample 3 Day Menu.

How do we get water?
California State Park staff leading the hike will provide plenty of drinking water (filtered and/or treated) throughout the entire trip. Please bring the capacity to carry 3 liters and full water bottles when meeting on the first day.

Can I bring alcohol or marijuana?
Alcohol is not permitted on CASPBA trips. Smoking is not allowed on any trail or in any trail camp.

Do we have to carry everything ourselves?
Yes, you must carry all of your own gear.

How much should my backpack weigh?
Backpacks should weigh 20-25 pounds for trips of this distance in this region.

Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are not allowed on any backcountry trail or in any trail camp unless they are trained service animals.

What if it rains?
Weather-related cancellations or changes to these trips are not anticipated. In the case of park closures due to extreme and/or dangerous weather conditions we will issue refunds.

What if there’s an emergency or someone gets hurt?
CASPBA leaders are trained in wilderness medicine and we have established Emergency Response Plans to initiate in the case of an emergency or injury out on trail.

Can I charge my devices?
Trail camps are primitive and without electricity. Participants may consider bringing a fully charged cell phone and perhaps small battery pack.

What kind of animals can we expect to see along the way?
Santa Cruz State Parks are teeming with an abundance of wildlife including vibrant birds, colorful reptiles, active mammals, and snazzy insects. Remember, do not feed wildlife. Trail camps are equipped with food lockers to keep food safe from animals during the night.


Why choose us?

This program is truly unique, the only such program led by California State Park staff. We offer naturalist-led backpacking trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sharing with you the natural and cultural history of the area. Trips vary in length and difficulty, proposing options for every experience level. Each trip provides two naturalists and you can meet them before hand at one of our in-person or video-conference pre-trip meetings. Native plant teas, trail desserts, demonstrations, stories, and jokes are added bonuses! 


Our mission is to provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state's extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.

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“This team was so focused, polite and hardworking and still managed to make it fun. It’s very hard to do this, but they made it look easy. I’m only sorry there aren’t dozens of similar programs throughout the state. Thank you so much.” –Gregory Rudd, Skyline to the Sea and The Trail Less Traveled 2016 participant

“This was a blast and with a great group of people. Most fun was the stories and the laughter. I learned a ton. More was covered than I could have ever imagined was out there. I never dreamed there was so much to know and I’m very impressed with Alex and Jeremy’s knowledge.” – Jennifer Hardwick, Skyline to the Sea 2016 participant


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