Go: Castle Rock
Castle Rock State Park is all about boulders and views. Less than 15 minutes from downtown Saratoga, it’s just off Skyline Boulevard, the road that runs along the ridge of the Santa Cruz mountains. Named after one impressive, ginormous rock with caves and passageways, there are a plethora of magnificent rock formations scattered throughout this wilderness. The rocks are a favorite of local climbers, and provide an exciting jungle gym for children—close supervision mandatory.
Castle Rock is one of my children's favorite places to go—they're all about scampering around on the rocks. I love going to Castle Rock for a trail run (there’s a beautiful 5-mile loop to Goat Rock), for a family hike and picnic on our secret lookout rock (pictured below, bet you can't find it), and, if I had a friend with rock climbing gear, I’d go for that too! There’s a nice selection of trail options, and even a campground and a waterfall (rain necessary…).
The only problem at Castle Rock is parking: it’s a popular place, especially on the weekend. If you head there on a weekend, go early to increase your chances of scoring one of the free parking spots along Skyline Boulevard. On the way home, it's fun to stop at The Mountain Winery for rest and refreshment in their tasting room.
Insider Secret: Castle Rock occasionally gets a dusting of snow in the winter!