Spectacular views of Monterey Bay and Big Basin (yes, at the same time) greet those who hike out to Goat Rock in Castle Rock State Park, just 10 miles west of Saratoga. The secret to Goat Rock’s success as a scenic overlook is its 3,000-foot elevation, which keeps you above the fog line on most days. From the staging area, descend along fern-lined Kings Creek before navigating up a rocky path toward the Goat Rock overlook. This 1-mile hike (one way) is family-friendly. Adventurous hikers (if they’re wearing shoes with good traction) can scramble up Goat Rock for some knock-your-socks-off views. Just be careful—the drop-off on the other side of the rock is surprisingly steep. The less adventurous can continue a bit farther along the trail to the Goat Rock overlook, where an interpretive panel shows local landmarks.
After conquering the big Goat, meander to downtown Saratoga’s Big Basin Way. This festively bedecked street is perfect for a quick holiday stroll. Start things off at the spacious Cinnabar Winery Tasting Room (14612 Big Basin Way, $5 to taste); their Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernet makes a great gift. For a quick and tasty bite, beeline for Vienna Woods Delicatessen (14567 Big Basin Way), tucked in a courtyard off the main drag, where the made-to-order deli sandwiches are large and loaded. Got visions of sugarplums dancing in your head? Chocolate aficionados will appreciate the locally sourced ingredients used to make the goodies at Saratoga Chocolates (14572 Big Basin Way). OK, we can’t guarantee they’ll have sugarplums, but their elegantly designed gift boxes will decorate any tree.
Castle Rock State Park is located on Highway 35, just 2.5 miles southeast of the junction with Hwy 9. From the parking lot, start on the Saratoga Gap Trail (heading right). After .4 mile, make a right at the junction and head towards Goat Rock. Return the way you came. No dogs.