Castle Rock – Sanborn Loop

Madrone Forest on the Ridge Trail in Castle Rock SP, from
Madrone Forest on the Ridge Trail in Castle Rock SP, from

I checked out another stellar peninsula trail running location at Sanborn County Park and Castle Rock State Park. The loop I ran covered between 12 and 12.5 miles with a great variety of trails, beautiful forest, great vistas, and no trail repeated. The start/finish point was at Saratoga Gap.

I began with a 3.2 mile segment along the Skyline Trail from Saratoga Gap into Sanborn County Park. This is a great stretch of trail with sections of single track and wider path in thick forest. At 3,000 feet of elevation, the climate is cooler and the mountains enhance precipitation so the forest looks very similar to parts of the Western Washington lowlands with a Douglas fir and bigleaf maple dominant forest. The bigleaf maples are nearing the peak of the fall color display and were a treat to run amongst.

At 3.2 miles, the main entrance to Castle Rock State Park can be found across Skyline Blvd. After a descent through forest on the Saratoga Gap trail, turn right on the rough and technical single track trail to Goat Rock. The views from the area around Goat Rock are awesome! Continuing from Goat Rock, the Ridge Trail descends through a gorgeous forest of madrones and yet more vistas of the San Lorenzo River Valley out to the Pacific Ocean.

From the bottom of the Ridge Trail, continue straight to the Trail Camp where drinking water is available. Head down to the Frog Flat trail and then a short section on the Saratoga Gap fireroad. Turn left on the Travertine Springs Trail which traverses the hillside in mixed forest and chapparal. About a mile into the Travertine Springs Trail there is a bridge across the San Lorenzo River. Later, pass the Travertine Springs which are actual springs with a wetland area. Soon after the Springs, reach the Saratoga Toll Road Trail. Turn right and begin a gradual ascent back to Saratoga Gap over 3 miles. The Toll Road Trail is a double track pathway that alternates between forest with nice soft surface and chapparal with views.

I recommend doing this loop clockwise as described because it’s nice to be able to enjoy the views along the Ridge Trail while descending. In addition, the Saratoga Toll Road is graded very nicely for an easy ascent of 800 feet back to Saratoga Gap.

Route map - click to enlarge
Route map - click to enlarge

There appears to be several aesthetic extensions to the main loop to increase the mileage. The first add-on is the Achistaca/Saratoga Gap Trail Loop that extends north of Highway 9 to Long Ridge Open Space and adds 3.7 miles. When you reach the Skyline to the Sea Trail 0.3 miles from Saratoga Gap, turn left and cross Highway 9. On the other side is the Achistaca Trail which goes to Long Ridge in 1.7 miles. From here, cross Skyline Blvd. and take the Saratoga Gap Trail back to Saratoga Gap in 2 miles. The second extension is a 6 mile out-and-back along the Skyline Trail past the Main Castle Rock State Park entrance. The trail continues for another three miles to Sunnyvale Mountain which also marks the end of the currently completed segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Finally, one could also incorporate the Skyline to Sea Trail by turning left on the Saratoga Toll Road Trail at the Travertine Springs Junction (instead of right) and linking up using either the Beekhuis Road or the Interconnector Trail to Waterman Gap.

Route Itinerary (94 minutes, 12-12.5 miles):

  • Skyline Trail (cross road at Castle Rock main entrance)
  • Saratoga Gap Trail
  • Goat Rock Trail
  • Ridge Trail
  • Saratoga Gap Trail
  • Frog Flat Trail
  • Saratoga Gap Trail
  • Travertine Springs Trail
  • Saratoga Toll Road Trail
  • Skyline to the Sea Trail


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