Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camps
Looking for your next adventure?
California State Parks Backpacking Adventures offers naturalist-led backpacking trips through the Santa Cruz Mountains each summer. Online registration opens March 1 at 9am.
Artists, we have a special backpacking trip option for you: the Big Basin Artabout! Ten artists will be chosen to particpate in the first backpacking trip in Big Basin since the CZU Lightning Complex Fire on June 3-4, 2023. Artists will recieve a $2500 stipend and will create an artistic piece in the medium of their choice inspired by the trip to be displayed in the park! The deadline to apply is April 28, 2023. For more information, visit the Big Basin Artabout website.
Trail camps impacted by CZU August Lightning Complex Fires
The following trail camps are currently OPEN and operating in the California State Parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains:
- Castle Rock Trail Camp at Castle Rock State Park
- Slate Creek Trail Camp at Portola Redwoods State Park.
ALL TRAIL CAMPS in Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Butano State Park are CLOSED due to extensive fire damage. Portions of the Skyline to the Sea trail is open in Castle Rock State Park, but closed from Beekhuis Road to Waterman Gap Trail Camp and through Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
NO WATER at WATERMAN GAP TRAIL CAMP or CASTLE ROCK TRAIL CAMP
Due to an issue with our water system, there is NO WATER available at Waterman Gap Trail Camp or Castle Rock Trail Camp
- All water must be packed into the camp.
- Remember all surface water must be treated before being used.
- Please plan accordingly.
We apologize for the inconvenience and we are working to fix the issue as soon as possible but we expect the water to be out for some time.
Castle Rock Trail Camp is now
Part of the Backcounty Trail Camp System
Starting Febuary 10th, Castle Rock Trail Camp will now have 15 of 20 campsites available by reservation only as part of the Backcountry Trail Camp System. You can make reservations by using the Backcountry Trail Camp Request Form, below.
Castle Rock Trail Camp will still have 5 sites available on a first come first serve basis. To get one for the first come first serve sites, check in with staff at the Robert C. Krikwood Parking Lot on Highway 35. There you will register and pay your fees. Do not hike to the Castle Rock Trail Camp and attempt to find a site before registering at the Robert C. Krikwood Parking Lot.
Castle Rock Trail Camp has trash receptacles, bathrooms, and 20 campsites with picnic tables and fire rings.
There is currently NO WATER avalable at Castle Rock Trail Camp and you will have to hike in all of your water. Castle Rock Trail Camp is a 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) hike from the parking area.
The Castle Rock Trail Camp will continue to allow fires during the rainy season in the designated metal fire rings. Fires are not allowed during fire season. Signs will be posted indicating whether or not fires are permitted. Do not gather wood for fires. Firewood will be available when fires are allowed and cost $13.00 per bundle. Please bring cash and exact change to purchase fire wood. Please call Castle Rock State Park at (408) 868-9540 to ask about fire closure.
The cost for campsites is $15 per night. This includes overnight parking for one vehicle. Each additional vehicle is $10 per night.
Backcountry Trail Camp Reservations and Information for
Big Basin Redwoods, Castle Rock, Portola Redwoods, and Butano State Parks.
The Santa Cruz Mountain Backcountry Trail Camps provide an incredible wilderness experience in the back yard of the San Francisco Bay Area. These trail camps are located within thousands of acres of redwood forest and are connected by an extensive trail system, spanning from the skyline ridge tops down to the Pacific Ocean. There are eight different trail camps open for reservation in our backpacking system across four different State Parks: Big Basin Redwoods, Portola Redwoods, Castle Rock, and Butano State Park. Along these trails, you will get to experience a variety of different scenery, wildlife, and geological features.
Trail Camp Rules:
- Trail Camps are open by reservation only. No dispersed camping is allowed.
- Overnight parking for Backpackers is only in designated trail head parking lots. Do not park along highways or in other undesignated areas.
- Trail Camps are primitive. Bring your own water since Butano, Lane, Alder, Twin Redwoods, Slate Creek, and Sunset Trail Camps do not have water faucets. If you chose to use surface water, you will need to treat it before drinking.
- Hikers must be off trails by sunset. Please arrive early enough to reach your assigned trail camp by sunset. If you arrive after sunset you will not be permitted to embark on your trip.
- No ground fires of any kind are allowed. The ONLY exception to this rule is fires are permitted in the designated metal fire rings at Castle Rock Trail Camp during the rainy season. Fires are not allowed during fire season. Signs will be posted indicating whether or not fires are permitted. Do not gather wood for fires. Firewood will be available when fires are allowed and cost $13.00 per bundle. Backpacking stoves may be used for cooking in all trail camps except in cases of extreme fire danger.
- No smoking on any trails or in any trail camp.
- Do not wash your dishes or clothing in creeks. Do not bathe in creeks.
- Never feed wildlife or allow wildlife to access your food. You are required to use the food lockers to store your food.
- No bikes are allowed on the single track trails. Bikes are only permitted on fire roads and on the Multi-Use section of the Skyline to the Sea Trail between Rancho Del Oso at Waddell Beach and the bike rack below Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
- No dogs are allowed in the trail camps or on the trails.
- No horses are allowed in the trail camps. Horse camping is permitted at Rancho Del Oso Horse Camp in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Call (831) 338-8867 for information and reservations.
- Campers must display permits when parking and carry their Backcountry Permit at all times.
- Camp in designated areas only and only in your assigned trail camp.
- 6 people maximum per site.
- Campers under 18 years of age must provide written permission from or be accompanied by a guardian.
- Hammocks are to be used with tree straps only and are not to be attached to any redwood trees.
- In case of emergency call 911 from one of the pay phones near a ranger station or from a call box on Highway 1 or Highway 9 and a ranger will be dispatched. It is unlikely your mobile phone will have coverage in the backcountry.
- Trail camp fees are $15 per site, per night. (maximum 6 people per site)
- There is a $8 non-refundable reservation fee. The reservation fee covers processing and any cancellations/adjustments.
- Each campsite can accommodate up to 6 people and you are allowed to reserve up to two campsites per reservation.
- If you are reserving more than two sites for a group of 13 or more the non-refundable reservation fee is a flat $25.00 no matter how many campsites are being reserved.
- Group reservations are allowed Sunday – Thursdays only, not on weekends.
- Changes and/or cancellations must be made a full 48 hours in advance by calling (831)338-8867.
Trail Camp Calendar
Please check the Trail Camp Calendar for availability of Trail Camps on the nights you would like to stay.
The calender lists how many sites are still avalable at each trail camp for each night. Each site has a capacity of 6 people. If it reads 0 avalable, we are sold out. Please check the campsite availability for each day you plan on backpacking at each of the trail camps you plan on staying at before submitting your reservation request.
We process requests in the order received. The calendar may show that there is availability, but if other person submitted a request before you which is still pending, we might sell out before we process your request. Trail Camp requests are processed Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. If the dates you want are not available now, check back for cancellations.
How to Make Reservations
- Reservations are required for all backcountry trail camps. There is no dispersed or off-trail camping allowed.
- Reservations can be made 60 days in advance by submitting a request online.
- Fill out an online Trail Camp Request Form and click submit.
**Sending a request does not mean that you have a reservation. Reservations are confirmed once paid**
- Wait for us to process your request. Requests are processed Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
- If your request is rejected you will need to start over and submit a new request.
- When your request has been approved we will hold your reservation until 5pm the following business day pending payment. If your reservation is not paid by 5pm the following business day we will cancel your request and you will need to submit a new one.
- Reservations are paid over the phone using a debit/credit card. Please call (831)338-8867 Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm to pay for your reservation and get any final questions answered.
- Once you have paid for your reservation, your permits will be emailed to you.
- For groups of 13+, call (831) 338-8867. Group reservations are allowed Sunday-Thursday only, and can be made at any time for the current year. Additional fees apply.
Backcountry Trail Camp Request Form
Please click the link above to send a Backcountry Trail Camp Request. We process requests Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Sending a request does not mean you have a reservation. Reservations are confirmed upon payment. Requests for trail camps may be made up to 60 days in advance.
To make a same day reservation, please call (831) 338-8867.
For groups of 13 or more, you will need a group reservation. Group Reservations can be made by calling (831) 338-8867.