Northwest of Santa Cruz, the 18,000 acre Big Basin State Park is home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco, with old growth and recovering Redwood Forest, mixed conifers, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Get ready for foggy and damp near the ocean and sunny, warm ridgetops (2,000). The park has a surprising number of waterfalls, a wide variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes, many animals (deer, raccoons, an occasional bobcat) and lots of bird life-- including Steller's jays, egrets, herons and California woodpeckers. Overall, there are over 70 miles of hiking trails.
The main park entrance is 25 miles northwest of Santa Cruz via Highways 9 and 236 and about 65 miles south of San Francisco. All roads into Big Basin are curvy.
The Rancho Del Oso / Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail is a backpacking route beginning at Castle Rock State Park, and passes though Big Basin Redwoods State Park and ends 33 miles later at Waddell Beach. There are three major starting points on the trail system: Castle Rock, Big Basin and Waddell Beach. Depending on the section of trail and trail camps you plan on using, one of these will likely be your starting point. Each of these trailheads have somewhat different registration procedures.
CASTLE ROCK - Park your vehicle in the parking lot off Highway 35, approximately 3 miles south of the Hwy 9 and Hwy 35 junction. Use the self-registration Iron Ranger envelopes to register. Put the name reservation was made under on the outside of the envelope, also vehicle license plate number being left in the parking lot.
BIG BASIN - Register, pay trail camp fees and get trail permit at the Big Basin Park Headquarters during office hours, or at the Iron Ranger located at the entrance to the day use area. When you register, you will get directions where to park your vehicle/vehicles.
WADDELL BEACH- Park entrance is directly opposite the Waddell Beach parking lot - NORTH side of Waddell Creek. (NOT the Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center entrance!) The gate is always closed but not locked. Do not leave vehicles at the Nature Center, along Highway 1, or in the beach parking lot. Use the self-registration Iron Ranger envelopes to register.
Overall, Skyline Trail is the 45th most popular hiking trail of all 88 hikes in California.