16.0 miles, Full day
This is a great route for expert hikers -- it starts out in the lush redwoods of Sanborn Skyline County Park southwest of San Jose, climbs to Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and crosses over to Castle Rock State Park, where it takes the popular Saratoga Gap Trail and returns to Sanborn Skyline.
Note this is very strenuous outing -- 16 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain -- but could be an excellent training hike for High Sierra adventures like Yosemite's Half Dome.
The views of the Santa Cruz Mountains are awesome at Castle Rock. On your way back, check out Indian Rock, just off the Skyline Trail -- it's one of many fascinating formations along this route.
Trails on this hike:
First leg from Sanborn Skyline: Sanborn Trail to the top of the ridge near Highway 35. > Skyline Trail till you see the crossing to Castle Rock State Park.
Second leg from Castle Rock: Saratoga Gap Trail to Trail Camp > Service Road to Loughry Woods Trail > Cross Highway 35
Third leg: Skyline Trail back to Sanborn Trail > San Andreas Trail back to the parking lot at Sanborn Skyline Park.
The hike may get noisy along the Loughry Woods Trail -- it's next to a target-shooting range (this is less of an issue on weekdays when the range is not used as much).
Pack plenty of water -- there's no water along this route, unless you filter from streams -- and enough food to keep you energized all day.
Note for dog owners: while dogs on leashes are allowed in Sanborn Skyline, they are not allowed in Castle Rock.
Sanborn Skyline Park hours: 8 a.m. to sunset year-round.
Fees: $6 to park.
Dogs: OK if leashed (note: not allowed at Castle Rock)
Driving directions: Sanborn Skyline County Park is west of Saratoga and south of San Jose. From Saratoga, go 2 miles west on Highway 9 to Sanborn Road. Turn left onto Sanborn Road and go a one mile to the park entrance.