Bay Area Trail Running: Castle Rock State Park

I used to rock climb in my previous life and Castle Rock State Park was where I climbed outdoor for the first time. Along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Castle Rock State Park embraces coastal redwood, douglas-fir andĀ madrone forest, most of which have been left in their natural, wild state. With unusual rock formations, lush forests and over 32 miles of crisscrossed hiking trails, Castle Rock State Park is an amazing place for trail runs, not to mention that it’s just minutes from the heart of Silicon Valley.

Castle Rock State Park

This trail run is a 12-mile loop (though turned out to be 14 because I took a wrong turn) that starts at skyline, junction of highway 35 and 9 (same starting point as the Saratoga Gap Trail). The total elevation gain on this routeĀ 3,270 feet, a big part of it coming in the last 3 miles. When I ran this one early morning, it was such a blissful solitude and I probably saw only 3 people on the whole 14-mile stretch. Spectacular vistas, beautiful single tracks and mostly shaded all make this an amazing run.


Starting from the parking lot, hop on the Skyline Trail towards the Castle Rock State Park parking lot, which is about 3.2 miles of rolling hills and completely shaded single track and fire trails. Cross over highway 35 to enter the Castle Rock State Park. Take the Saratoga Gap Trail to Goat Rock Trail where immediately you will be welcomed by towering twin pine trees. When I got to Goat Rock Trail, I was a little lost since the trails seem to disappear into amazing rock formation. Took some clambering before I could find it again. The most important thing here is to remember to follow signs towards the campground. The Castle Rock Trail Camp has water and restrooms and is a good place to chomp on some food and water before continuing. Travertine Springs trail is mostly downhill until you hit the San Lorenzo River and then the climbing starts in earnest. The last three miles of Saratoga Toll Road Trail is all uphill, though with a low grade. It connects up to the Skyline to Sea trail that leads you back to the parking lot.

  • Start of Skyline Trail
    Start of Skyline Trail

The overall route that I took looks like this:

  • Skyline Trail (from the parking lot)
  • Cross the highway to Castle Rock State Park parking lot
  • Saratoga Gap Trail
  • Goat Rock Trail
  • Ridge Trail towards the campground
  • Frog Flat Trail
  • Travertine Springs Trail
  • Saratoga Toll Road Trail
  • Skyline to Sea Trail

Have you run in Castle Rock State Park? What’s your favorite route?

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