I went for my first hike in ages today, and my first one in California ever! My friend C and I spent an afternoon in Castle Rock State Park, less than 40 minutes drive from where we live. I'd gone to the bookstore in Sunnyvale to buy a book on local hikes, and was keen to try it out.
We weren't able to set off until 2pm and the sun sets reasonably early still, so we opted for one of the shorter walks. The Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trail Loop fit the ticket - a spot close enough to drive to, a short-ish walk some elevation to get the heart rate up but not enough to be truly killer and a shorter option in case it started getting towards dusk.
So, with a packed lunch and raring to go we headed out. It was a beautiful walk: through forests, past a waterfall (where we stopped for our late lunch), over and around sandstone outcrops. All topped with stunning views across the Santa Cruise Mountains to Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. We stopped often and at every view point to enjoy the scenery so in the end we did need to choose the shorter option, but no doubt we'll be back before too long to enjoy the full loop and explore the park a bit more.