Big Basin Skyline to the Sea Marathon Race Info

Date: 6/3/18

Location: Starts at Saratoga Gap, Skyline Boulevard (CA-35) at Hwy 9, Los Gatos, CA and ends at the Pacific Ocean at Waddell Beach, on Hwy1

Start Time: 9:00am

Avg Temps (f): 47/80

Time Limit: 8 hours

Summary: A net downhill course running on the Skyline to the Sea Trail, starting at Saratoga Gap, where Hwy 9 and Hwy 35 meet in the Santa Cruz Mountains, running through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest park in California (est. 1902), and ending at the Pacific Ocean at Waddell Beach, on Hwy 1. The course mainly runs on single track trail, with a little dirt road, through tall redwoods and high chaparral, with twists, turns, rocks, roots, and both steep and gradual climbs and descents. Both Marathon and 50k distances offered with 50k runners doing an extra loop after the second aid station.

Lessons Learned from Race Reports

  • Big gaps between aid stations, so it’s highly recommended that runners carry at least 20 oz. of water between aid stations. Be sure to practice long runs carrying this much water.
  • Headphones allowed only on dirt road sections, which isn’t much!
  • Poison Oak and Bees are plentiful on the course, so be aware and bring Tecnu for your arms and legs immediately after the race
  • Bottleneck start with ~300 runners starting out on single track trail, so be ready for a slower start or position yourself wisely if going for a fast time
  • While the trail trends downward in the first 6 miles, there are lots of little ups and downs and twists and turns, so you have to pay attention to your footing an energy levels on the rollers
  • While it’s an overall net downhill, don’t be fooled, it’s still quite hilly!
  • Respect the weather – if it’s hot, it’s going to be a much tougher day
  • Tough to keep a consistent speed on the more technical sections of trail
  • GPS watches might be inaccurate in much of the trail portions, so don’t rely too heavily on them for accurate splits
  • Most technically challenging part of the course is after the second aid station, mile 11.2. You leave the shade and have a sunny, exposed stretch of tilted rock slabs, running on a side slope on slippery rock, up and down little steps.
  • Likely lots of other users on the trail, especially by the second half, so be considerate, share the trail, and make your presence known so you don’t surprise people from behind
  • Likely to have a temperature drop after mile 18, as you head into an old-growth redwood forest – super pretty part of the trail.
  • A few steep ups and downs between miles 18 and 21, so be prepared mentally for those, that late in the race
  • Some creek crossings later in the race, which can be good to cool off with and which can be trick to maneuver if you’re really tired and get off-balance easily
  • Be mentally prepared for the final climb in the last 2 miles (~250 feet), as it will likely seem never ending since you’re that close to the finish.
  • With all the twists and turns, be aware of course markings and pay attention (hard to do when you’re looking down, trying not to trip)
  • Expect to take about an extra 45 minutes to an hour on this course compared to a flat road marathon
  • If taking the bus shuttle, it turns into a long process in the morning just getting to the start, so plan accordingly with food, water, clothes, and bathroom breaks before and after the bus ride to the start.
  • Expect traffic on the roads home, so plan accordingly, possibly staying as close to the finish as possible for minimal travel post-race, or have a ride so you don’t have to drive right away


Type: Point to Point

Start/Finish Info: Shuttle to the start (included in entry) or get dropped off at the start

Hills: ~1200 ft of gain from 6.5-9.5, ~500 from 15-15.5, countless other rollers along the way since it’s on trails.

Course Map / Elevation: 2420 ft of gain / 5020 ft of loss

See course photos for pictures of the running surfaces along the way.

Aid stations

Locations of water and electrolyte stations: Miles 6.5, 11.2, 15.9, 24.5

Aid offered: Fresh fruit, salty snacks, assorted candy, water, and electrolyte sports drink

Spectator access

Access Locations: At miles 6.5, 15.9, and the finish; see driving directions here

Boston qualifier?


Race reports (really good trail descriptions) (good pics)

Strava links

Race Website