Santa Cruz County is known for some of the best hiking trails in the Bay Area. There is a vast terrain to fulfill any hiker’s desire here, one of the reasons we love this area. With coastal trails that overlook the ocean and endless redwood forests stretching in every direction of the county. Whether in search of breathtaking views or solace in the silence of the forest, Santa Cruz’s hiking trails make for a great hike.
The Ocean Views
Some of the best hikes in Santa Cruz can be found right along the coastline. Old Landing Cove Trail, located in Wilder Ranch State Park, is a loop that features various wildflowers. There is also an array of local birds. Furthermore, depending on the time of year a chance to view passing whales. This trail is a little over two miles long and is fitting for hikers of any skill level.
Natural Bridges State Park is one of the most popular and beautiful places to hike in Santa Cruz. There is a five-mile loop that spans from Natural Bridges to the Lighthouse Field Loop. It offers the opportunity to explore tide pools, a natural preserve for Monarch Butterflies, and breathtaking sunsets. This trail also good for hikers of any skill level and is often utilized by both locals and tourists for hiking, running, leisure walks, and nature trips.
For a more nontraditional hike with all the Santa Cruz feels check out West Cliff Drive! This is not a traditional in the sense of remote hiking trails hidden away from the traffic and the bustling noises of Bay Area life. However, this six-mile round trip hike offers all the seaside views and some great Santa Cruz landmarks. You can start your trip around the Santa Cruz Dream Inn near the famous Boardwalk. Continue on foot entirely along the coastline. Along the way, you’ll find Steamer Lane, the Lighthouse Field State Beach, and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. These are must-sees at least once for any Santa Cruz local or visitor. And being nontraditional does have its plus points. Because this trail is paved rather than rocky or dirt terrain it is stroller, wheelchair, bike, dog, and jogger friendly.
Hike Among Giants
Fall Creek offers beautiful redwood forest views and a chance to sneak away from the traffic and crowds of the city. Located in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park this seven-mile loop trail features river views and is usually accessible year-round, although you may have to navigate around fallen trees according to many of the trail’s reviews. This trail is rated as moderate, so ensure you pack in enough water and snacks for a full and adventurous day.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park offers one of the densest and vigorous redwood trails in Santa Cruz. Named Skyline to the Sea, this trail is over 13 miles long and offers both ocean and forest views. Some of the redwoods found along this trail are rumored to be some the oldest and biggest around, truly making any hiker feel tiny in comparison to these giants. Due to the length of this trail, there are outlets where many hikers will leave a car, so make sure you plan ahead and plan your route before embarking on this epic trail.
Nisene Marks State Park offers some of the most family-friendly hiking trails in Santa Cruz County. Located in Aptos this park offers a densely wooded redwood forest. It stays cool year-round, has ample parking, bathrooms – which any parent knows are a must for children and a plethora of hiking trails. The Maple Falls trail is an appropriate hike for older children who are able to walk several miles on their own in fairly easy terrain. Nisene Marks known for its’ beautiful redwoods. Also, your children may also have an opportunity to spot deer, frogs, cougars, raccoons, owls, and many different birds in this state park.
Hiking Tips & Tricks
Check out these helpful hiking tips and tricks to ensure you and your loved ones have a fun and safe hiking adventure every time you embark on a new trail:
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks.
- Ensure you bring a pack, but also keep it as light as possible.
- Dress in layers.
- Pack enough water and food to last you and any companions throughout the day.
- Bring along a small first aid kit in case there are any slips or spills along the way.
- A flashlight, sunblock, and a compass or map are recommended by any avid hiker.
- Ensure you exercise caution around cliffs, rivers, and dilapidated bridges or buildings.
- If hiking alone, tell a family member or friend which trail you plan to use and estimated return time.