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

santa cruz backpacking tours 2019

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 2-3 night trips offer the classic Santa Cruz backpacking experience, with the added bonus of being led by a knowledgeable State Park professional.

There are three 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 Friday, Feb. 1 at 9:00 am and is expected to sell out fast. This is one you’ll want to set an alarm or add a calendar reminder for.

Participation is open to adults 18 or over and children ages 13 to 17 accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The 2019 Naturalist-Led Backpacking tours include the following 3 trips:

  • Skyline to the Sea – June 20-23
  • A Trek Through Time – July 19-21
  • Ridges to Redwoods – August 16-18

Register here.

Here are the three Santa Cruz backpacking tours being offered in 2019:

Skyline to the Sea

skyline to sea trail santa cruz

Castle Rock State Park to Waddell State Beach
4 Days, 3 Nights
June 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

A Trek Through Time


Butano State Park to Waddell State Beach
3 Days, 2 Nights
July 19-21


This three-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.

Ridges to Redwoods

Castle Rock State Park to Portola Redwoods State Park
3 Days, 2 Nights
August 16 – 18

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

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

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.