Santa Cruz Backpacking Tours: Roughing It With an Expert Guide by Your Side

santa cruz backpacking tours

Photo by @genghis_johnn

Are you ready for the quintessential Santa Cruz Mountains experience?

Better yet, want an expert tour guide by your side?

Naturalist-led Santa Cruz backpacking tours are being offered again this year by California State Parks, from June through August. These 1-3 night trips offer the classic Santa Cruz backpacking experience, with the added bonus of being led by a knowledgeable State Park professional.

There are four backpacking trips to choose from, some of which take you through lesser known portions of our state parks.

Last year’s tours sold out, and we expect this year’s to sell out quickly as well. The video below gives a great overview of the tours:

What You Need to Know

Registration opens Thursday, Feb. 1 at 8:00 am and is expected to sell out fast. This is one you’ll want to set an alarm or add a calendar reminder for.

Must be 13 or older to attend. Children 13 and older must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian 21 or older.

The 2018 Naturalist-Led Backpacking tours include the following 4 trips:

  • Skyline to the Sea – June 7-10
  • Ridges to Redwoods – June 29-July 1
  • A Trek Through Time – July 19-22
  • In Pursuit of Perseids – August 12-13

Register here.

Here are the four Santa Cruz backpacking tours being offered in 2018:

Skyline to the Sea

skyline to sea trail santa cruz

Big Basin & Castle Rock State Parks
4 Days, 3 Nights
June 7-10

A favorite among backpacking enthusiasts, the Skyline to Sea trek is the quintessential Santa Cruz Mountains backpacking experience.

You’ll see a bit of everything Santa Cruz has to offer in this challenging 30 mile, 4 day hike that takes you through Big Basin & Castle Rock state parks. Expect to hike up to 10 miles each day. You’ll spend much of your journey in the redwoods, but will also come across grassy meadows, ridgelines with breathtaking panoramic views, and waterfalls. Your journey ends at Waddell State Beach.

Photo of Skyline to the Sea trail view courtesy of @erinbil

Ridges to Redwoods

Castle Rock & Portola Redwoods State Parks
3 Days, 2 Nights
June 29-July 1

Make sure your camera has a panoramic setting and get ready to travel through oak woodland ridgelines and spend two nights among towering ancient redwoods.

Photo courtesy of Portola and Castle Rock Foundation

A Trek Through Time


Butano & Big Basin State Parks
4 Days, 3 Nights
July 19-22


This four day journey will take you to iconic spots in Big Basin, and to more unknown parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains backcountry. Waterfalls, old-growth redwoods and panoramic ocean views will make this an unforgettable wilderness adventure.

In Pursuit of Perseids


Butano State Park
2 Days, 1 Night
August 12-13

This two day hike is highlighted by the quiet evening you’ll spend atop Butano Ridge during the height of the 2018 Perseid meteor shower.

For more information, click here or call 831-291-8273. Register here.

Interested in planning your own epic hiking experience but still sleeping in your own bed at night? Try two of our favorite day hikes in Santa Cruz County:

About Christine Candelaria

Christine Candelaria is a local mom of four who enjoys sharing her Santa Cruz adventures. You can follow her #santacruzlife on Instagram at @theaumsmama.