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

Santa Cruz Backpacking Tours 2017

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 April through September. 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 six 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 Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 8:00 am and is 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 2017 Naturalist-Led Backpacking tours include the following 6 trips:

  • Wildflower Special – April 28-30
  • A Night Among the Ancients – June 3-4
  • Butano and Beyond – June 16-18
  • Skyline to the Sea – July 20-23
  • In Pursuit of Perseids – August 13-14
  • A Trek Through Time – September 14-17

Register here.

Here are the six Santa Cruz backpacking tours being offered in 2017:

Wildflower Special

Castle Rock State Park & Portola Redwoods State Park
3 Days, 2 Nights
April 28-30

It’s easy to imagine beautiful fields of wildflowers after the wet winter we’ve had this year. This three day hike will take you along ridgelines and through redwoods before rewarding you with panoramic views and fields of native wildflowers.

A Night Among the Ancients

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Portola Redwoods State Park
2 Days, 1 Night
June 3-4

1000-year old redwoods in the Peters Creek Redwood Grove are the highlight of this journey.

Too remote for loggers to access, the redwoods in this area are one of the last remaining stands of old-growth redwoods in our county.

Photo of Portola Redwoods State Park courtesy of @natalievenuto.

Butano and Beyond

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Butano and Big Basin State Parks
3 Days, 2 Nights
June 16-18

This trip offers a mix of iconic backpacking spots in Big Basin, with some of the more unknown backcountry destinations in Santa Cruz County.

Expect to see moss-lined waterfalls and old-growth redwood groves on this journey that concludes at Waddell State Beach.

Photo of Butano State Park courtesy of @jlwxthomas.

Skyline to the Sea

skyline to sea trail santa cruz

Big Basin & Castle Rock State Parks
4 Days, 3 Nights
July 20-23

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

In Pursuit of Perseids


Butano State Park
2 Days, 1 Night
August 13-14

This two day hike is highlighted by the quiet evening you’ll spend atop Butano Ridge during the height of the 2017 Perseid meteor shower.

A Trek Through Time


Butano & Big Basin State Parks
4 Days, 3 Nights
September 14-17

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.

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 Ethan Oates

Ethan Oates fell in love with Santa Cruz while visiting as a child. He has lived in Santa Cruz since the mid '90's, and is happiest when spending time with his family.

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