Whether you live here or are visiting the hiking and running trail options are amazing and some of the most beautiful in the world. Explore the local hills, redwoods, beaches and more. Explore our list of great hiking spots, leave your comments and submit your favorite hikes.
Note: There are some pending park closures due to the CA state budget - contact the Dept. of Parks and Recreation to confirm park hours and availability.
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Big Basin Redwoods Big Basin Redwoods State Park California’s oldest state park. All levels of hikers enjoy more than 80 miles of trails within 18,000 acres of old growth and second growth coastal redwood forest, where waterfalls and wildlife abound. Bikes are allowed on fire roads only. Horses allowed on equestrian trails, and dogs are allowed on fire roads and in campsites. The park is accessible via Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz, or by taking Highway 9 to Highway 236. Call 800-444-PARK to make camping reservations. Call 800-874-TENT for tent cabins reservations.
Castle Rock State Park Castle Rock offers 3,600 acres of coastal redwoods, Douglas fir and madrone forest. Steep canyons and unusual rock formations attract climbers, but 32 miles of trails meandering through lush, mossy forest make for great hiking and horseback riding. Primitive campsites for backpackers are the only camping facilities. Dogs are not allowed on trails or in campsites. No biking on trails. The park is located on Highway 35, two-and-a-half miles from Highway 9. Call 408-867-2952.
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park This park offers 10,000 acres of rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to more than 2,600 feet. More than 30 miles of trails attract hikers, joggers and bikers. While the park’s elevation offers challenging treks, the bottom of the park has flat, forested trails for laid-back hiking and biking. Six primitive campsites accessed by a six-mile trail accommodate backpackers. Dogs are allowed. The park is easily accessible from Highway 1: In Aptos, exit at State Park Drive and head east, turn right on Soquel Avenue and left on Aptos Creek Road. Call 831-763-7062 for more information.
Henry Cowell Redwoods Fall Creek State Park Once home to the Zayante Indians, Henry Cowell now accommodates 15 miles of hiking and equestrian trails winding through old-growth redwood forest—the oldest trees in the park are 1,400 to 1,800 years old. The northern portion of the park, Fall Creek, offers 20 miles of trails. Bikes are allowed on the roads and fire roads only. Catch a ride on the Roaring Camp Big Trees Railroad, located next door. Access the park from Highway 9 in Felton and from Graham Hill Road. Call 831-438-2396 for park info; 1-800-444-PARK for camping reservations.
Wilder Ranch State Park Wilder Ranch encompasses about 5,000 acres of coastal habitat and recreation areas, including 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. State Parks is currently restoring 110 acres of coastal habitat. Since restoration began, wildlife, including hawks, wetland birds and red-legged frogs have retuned to the former ranch. Located north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Call 831-423-9703.
Pogonip / is a park in Santa Cruz encompasses 640 acres of beautiful meadow and woods, Pogonip is primarily restricted to use by hikers. It contains a number of historic sites (lime kilns) in varying degrees of disrepair, and supports a significant number of different plant and animal species. Getting to the Pogonip Golf Club Drive entrance is easy from Santa Cruz and you can be in nature in minutes. There is a nice variety from open fields to redwoods to historic landmarks Pogonip contains nearly eight miles of prepared trails, plus many more miles of smaller tracks which wind through the hills and over and around the many small creeks which crisscross the park at most times of year. The Rincon, Rincon Connector, and U-Con Trails, all of which interconnect with other parks (including Henry Cowell) are multi-use trails, allowing bicylists and equestrian use.
Getting there: 333 Golf Club Drive + other entrances 831-420-5270 NOTE: Limited park closure in progress
DeLaveaga Park / Hiking, Golf, Frisbee, Picnics, Archery and more
This beautiful resource is a stones throw from town and offers something for everyone. José Vincente DeLaveaga was a successful businessman and financier from San Francisco. Born in Mexico in 1844, DeLaveaga moved with his family to San Francisco in 1868. In 1887 he bought his first piece of land in Santa Cruz and continued acquiring more parcels for the next several years. The land which is now DeLaveaga Park was a vacation spot, or hacienda, for the DeLaveagas. Trails are open to hikers and bicyclists with several picnic and playgrounds areas. Highlights include Ballfields, Golf course and Frisbee Golf course, Archery Range.
Getting there: 850 Branciforte Drive + other entrances 831-420-5270
Neary Lagoon / A drainage area of approximately 850 acres and empties into the lagoon to the ocean. The entrances are located at the end of Chestnut Street, the end of Blackburn Street, and the corner of Bay Street and California Street. There are all sorts of wildlife inhabiting the refuge including mallard and wood ducks, pied billed grebes, a multitude of coots, the world’s meanest geese, several varieties of fish and the occasional great blue heron or hawk. A wooden walkway and trail were recently added and allow a complete circuit around the lagoon. The short walk is less than one mile, and is very popular with families with children.
West Cliff Drive / A two-mile costal walk where you can watch the local surfers and sea otters during the day and view the lights of the Beach Boardwalk and the Wharf at night at one end.
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