Saratoga Gap Tr. / Summit Rock Loop Tr. (dayhike)

Trip Date: 12/5/2015

Location: Castle Rock State Park

Permit/Pass: Day use parking in the state park lot - $8.

Trail maps: CA SP mapOld SP map

Directions: From Hwy 85 near Cupertino CA. take the Saratoga Ave. exit south to the small town of Saratoga. Continue straight through the town as Saratoga Ave. turns into CA-9 (also Big Basin Way). Continue south, the west, on windy CA-9 as it climbs to a junction with CA-35. Turn left and head up the road. At about 2.6 miles you'll see a right turn into the small parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. Just a few yards past this there is a left turn into a gated pull-out. This is the trailhead for Indian Rock and also overflow parking for Castle Rock State Park (the parking fills early on weekend mornings so I began my hike here).

Synopsis: A great hike for a warm summer day. The nearly constant tree canopy keep things cool and shady, and highlights those moments when you pop out on the ridge to see amazing views to the south. If you've picked a clear day, the views from summit rock are also impressive. Be aware that this park and these trails see plenty of action on the weekends. 

Trail sequence: Saratoga Gap Trail / Interconnector Trail / Ridge Trail / Campground trail / Service road trail / Skyline Trail / Summit Rock Loop Trail / Skyline 

Type: Loop

Distance: 5.6 miles

Elevation: Min. - 2404', Max. - 3115'

Profile: (Due to gps difficulties this profile cut off the latter part of the hike)

Rating: Moderate (factors: dark, damp under canopy)

Notes: - We intended to pick up Loghry Woods trail out of Castle Rock trail camp but somehow missed the connection and had to follow the service road up to the connection with Skyline Trail. If you plan to complete that part of the hike the total mileage will increase significantly.

- Upon approaching Castle Rock trail camp you'll begin hearing loud banging noises. These are gunshots coming from the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club just to the north of the park. They'll continue for quite a while as you pass the club and climb toward Summit Rock.

Track: Saratoga Gap Tr. / Summit Rock Loop Tr. - Castle Rock SP

Turn by Turn:

-- Pick up the Saratoga Gap trail at the southwest corner of the parking lot. You immediately begin a mostly gentle descent to the west alongside a shaded, green stream-bed.

-- Pass the Castle Rock trail on the left a few tenths of a mile into the walk and continue west down the canyon.

-- After a little over a half-mile you turn to cross the stream and meet a junction of trail on the other side. Continue on the Saratoga Gap trail toward the Castle Rock Falls overlook.

-- The overlook is a nice place for a break or a bit and a bit of open sky. When done, head back to the trail and continue west. Eventually you come to a junction with the Interconnector Trail on your right. Turn right (north) to follow this path uphill to the Ridge Trail.

[This guide takes the Interconnector Trail. I chose this route because I imagined a trail called "Ridge Trail" would offer even better views than the very nice but intermittent ones I enjoyed on the Saratoga Gap Trail. I was wrong about the better views, and next time would continue on the Saratoga Gap Trail.]

  -- After a short bit of climbing you meet the Ridge Trail. Turn left (west) on the Ridge Trail.

  -- Eventually the Ridge Trail switches to the northeast and descends to the trail camp area. Follow the signs to the campground, then take the service road that climbs to the northeast. 

  -- A short distance brings you to the turnoff for the Loghry Woods trail - or should, I never saw it. (If you take that trail you will increase the mileage for this hike but will also get to see more of the Skyline Trail.) Continue on the service road to follow this guide.

  -- Upon reaching Hwy 35, cross the road and head past the gate to join Skyline Trail. Turn right (east) to head for Summit Rock. At the signed junction head north on the path to Summit Rock. 

  -- Heading back from Summit Rock, return to the signed junction with the interpretive plaque, and take the Summit Rock Loop trail that descends to the east.

  -- This trail twists and turns as it drops and generally trends eastward (though the map doesn't do it justice). After a longer time than the map would suggest you reach a spot deep in the canopy cover where the road/trail has narrowed and become less distinct.

  -- Soon you come to an unsigned junction where the trail splits. One part heads northeast and down, the other turns to the right (south) and climbs. Turn right to take this connector trail and ascend steadily to meet the Skyline Trail.

  -- You'll hear the road (Hwy 35) before you see the junction. Turn left (southeast) on Skyline Trail and begin ascending the last part of the hike. After a few tenths of a mile you level out and drop a bit to the Indian Rock trailhead. Pass through the gate and return to your car.

Video: Youtube