Backpacking Program

California State Parks Guided Backpacking Adventures

2020 Registration Opens February 1st!

Who better to lead you through our parks than California State Parks professionals? Three backpacking trips will be offered in summer 2020. 

The trips range from one to three nights, offering options for every experience level.Hike spectacular ridgelines, old growth redwood forests, to sandy shores with our knowledgeable team of backcountry naturalists. Native plant teas, trail desserts, skills demonstrations, campfire stories and jokes are added bonuses.

Portola to the Sea: Portola State Park to Waddell State Beach (June 11 – 14, 2020)

Participants will have the opportunity to challenge themselves with a guided hike to the top of the beloved Skyline to the Sea route on this 3-night, 4-day excursion. The route travels through some of the most remote trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains and includes two nights at the iconic Sunset Trail Camp. Beginning in Portola Redwoods State Park at peak elevation, backpackers travel through multiple ecosystems, ending their journey at the spectacular Waddell Beach for a dip in the sea to wash off the trail dust. Trip fee is $300.

Skyline to the Sea: Castle Rock State Park to Waddell State Beach (July 16 – 19, 2020)

This 3-night, 4-day outing from Castle Rock to Waddell State Beach takes you on the legendary journey that is the quintessential Santa Cruz Mountains backpacking experience. This trek spans 30+ miles of stunning ridgeline panoramas, mixed oak, madrone and redwood forests, riparian habitats, grassy meadows, spring-fed waterfalls, ending on the soft sandy beach. Adventurers will hike up to 10 miles a day, up steep hills and over sunny ridges on this challenging trip. Trip fee is $325.

In Pursuit of Perseids: Castle Rock State Park (August 11 – 12, 2020)

Scheduled around the annual Perseids meteor shower, this journey through Castle Rock enables participants to watch shooting stars in the quiet and darkness of the backcountry. Perseids are only clearly seen every other year due to a full moon, and this trip includes camping far away from any city lights. While the highlight of this exploration is the meteor shower, daylight brings panoramic ocean and mountain views. Telescopes and treats are provided as everyone stays up past midnight for this unique event. Trip fee is $175.

Professional Expert Naturalists

California State Park naturalists will guide participants through the majestic Santa Cruz Mountains, sharing the natural wonders of the area and the unique history of the parks. They are Wilderness First Responder-certified, California Naturalist-certified and have many years of experience leading backcountry overnight and day hikes interpreting the natural and cultural history of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their training in interpretive communication makes them great storytellers, creatively conveying information in a fun and engaging manner. Additionally, the naturalists provide expertise and guidance in backpacking set up, equipment and logistics.


Online registration for a limited number of backpacking spots opens February 1, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. PST. Participation is open to adults 18 or over and children ages 13 to 17 accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information, email or call (831) 278-0195.

The 2020 California State Park Backpacking Adventures program is made possible by California State Parks, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, Waddell Creek Association, Mountain Parks Foundation, Sempervirens Fund, and Portola and Castle Rock Foundation.