Want to beat the kiln-like Sacramento heat? Of course. Who doesn’t?
I suggest a trail with a name right out of the storybooks: Skyline to the Sea.
Actually, we’re dealing with only the final portion of a 30-mile stretch on the Bay Area’s peninsula that starts at Saratoga Gap and Castle Rock State Park, runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains and Big Basin State Park, past the luscious Berry Creek Falls and down to Waddell Beach, which lies on a rural stretch of Highway 1 about halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. This trail has it all: ocean breezes and views, lush, riparian paths and redwoods.
If you want to spend three days on an overnight backpacking trip, using a car shuttle with one parked at the Gap and the other at the beach, have at it. For our purposes, though, the 14-mile beach-to-falls segment is a perfect way to escape the swelter.
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You might think that a 150-mile drive is too long just to do a hike or trail run. Look at it this way: Leave early in the morning, return late at night and you miss a full day of Sacramento heat. Or you could stay the night in Santa Cruz or the Pigeon Point hostel.
Weekend Hike: Skyline to the Sea Trail: Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Falls
Length: 14 miles, out and back
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Directions to trailhead: Make your way to Half Moon Bay, and go left on Highway 1 for 26 miles to the Waddell Beach parking lot.
Route: Go 0.3 of a mile on a blacktop road to the ranger station, then make a sharp left onto the signed single-track trail. At 1.4 miles, you reach a junction with the fire-road version of the Skyline to the Sea. Go left for about the next 5 miles, crossing several bridges over Waddell Creek, beyond the McCrary Ridge Trail junction and the Howard King Trail junction, both on the right. Cross a stream to the Berry Creek Falls trail on the left. Follow that uphill to the falls. Retrace steps back to the beach.
Toilets: At trailhead.