Route: Bay to Ridge to Skyline to Sea (CA)

Submitted by Jeff Merrick on Tue, 06/30/2020 - 10:03pm
California, US
50.4 mi
Vertical Gain
6964 ft

This route combines 3 popular trails to travel from the Palo Alto Baylands over the Santa Cruz Mountains and then finish at the Pacific Ocean.  The route starts with the Bay to Ridge Trail then connects with the Bay Area Ridge Trail and then finishes with the Skyline to the Sea Trail. The route is roughly 85% trail / 15% city running covering just over 50 miles and just under 7000 feet of elevation gain.


Bay to Ridge Trail

The Bay to Ridge Trail starts at the Palo Alto Baylands Sailing Station and finishes at Skyline Boulevard in the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. It starts by running through the city until reaching Pearson-Arastradero Preserve where the streets end and the climb up to Skyline begins.  This trail does not have its own specific markings so it is best to know the route well in advance. The Bay to Ridge Trail has its own FKT tracked here:

More info / maps:


Bay Area Ridge Trail

A section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail is used to link the Bay to Ridge Trail to the Skyline to the Sea Trail.  This starts at the Horseshoe Lake Trailhead in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve and travels to Saratoga Gap in Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve. The Bay Area Ridge Trail is well marked at every intersection and is easy to stay on course.


Skyline to the Sea Trail

The Skyline to the Sea Trail is a popular backpacking route covering 25 miles through Castle Rock State Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and West Waddell Creek State Wilderness. It starts at the Saratoga Gap Trailhead and finishes at Waddell Beach. The trail is wooded the whole way meandering through the redwoods and trending downhill.  The Skyline to the Sea Trail is also fairly well marked and relatively easy to follow.  It has its own FKT tracked here:

More info / maps:



Water can be found at least at the following locations (mileage estimated):

  • Pearson-Arastradero Preserve (8.3 miles)
  • Foothills Park (10.2 miles)
  • Cal Fire Station (25 miles; small detour)
  • Waterman Trail Camp (31.8 miles)
  • Big Basin fountains (40.3 miles)


Thanks to the creators of the FKT routes linked above (especially Marcy)!  The descriptions contain tons of good information which helped to piece this route together.


I'm going to give this route a go tomorrow, July 10. Due to COVID-19 precautions all of the public water locations are currently shut off so I have stashed water near a couple fill up points that would typically be available. I believe that this will make my run officially self supported but it will be unsupported in spirit. Also, a small section of the Skyline to the Sea trail is closed and will require a detour. From the Big Basin Redwoods State Park site:

CLOSED - Approximately 1 mile of the Skyline to Sea Trail is closed south of Park Headquarters from Middle Ridge Road to the Sunset Connector Trail due to storm damage. Detours are in place.

This will add a little bit of distance and a little bit of vert.

I finished off the route in the style described above. Pro tip: Middle of July is probably not the best choice. However, if you make the same mistake that I did then a dip in the creek just after the exposed sandstone slabs on the Skyline to the Sea Trail is pretty amazing.

My watch clocked in with 52.86 miles and 7290 feet of elevation and I stayed on route the whole time. The detour mentioned should have added roughly .3 miles and 100 feet of vert so I think this route is slightly longer than what is in the description. The stats in the description were from mapping it out in Strava and I trust my watch (Coros Apex) a bit more than the Strava mapping feature.

Nice!  Looks like an interesting combo, fun to remember those trails (and those beautiful trees).

Thanks Marcy!  Your routes in the area and the detailed information that they contained helped a ton to piece this together.  Thanks!