Best beach trails in Santa Cruz, California

1,760 Reviews
Explore the most popular beach trails near Santa Cruz with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Map of beach trails in Santa Cruz, California
Top trails (11)
#1 - Old Landing Cove Trail
Wilder Ranch State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(720)
Length: 2.3 mi • Est. 59 m
Sometimes all you need is an easy stroll by the ocean to refresh your spirits. This track along the Pacific Ocean north of Santa Cruz is one of the best places in California to do just that. You'll see gulls, geese, pelicans and other waterfowl and you might hear the distant bark of passing sea lions. If your timing's right, you might even spot passing whales on their annual migrations. Another bonus: touring the grounds of a farm replete with antique cars, farm machinery and other remnants of farming life along the Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Wilder family ran a dairy farm on this land from the 1880s to the 1970s. This track is very basic: just start out from the parking lot at the Wilder Ranch State Park visitors center and follow Old Cove Landing Trail along the ocean. Eventually it turns northward again and loops back to where you started. Best time to go: Views of the ocean are more clear in winter and spring; in summer the coast tends to get fogged in. The park is very popular on weekends; a weekday visit will be much more pleasant. December through April is also peak whale migration season.Show more
#2 - West Cliff Drive
Lighthouse Field State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray Star(385)
Length: 4 mi • Est. 1 h 39 m
Note: Due to COVID-19 measures, the parking lots are closed. These gentle, family-friendly trails are multi-use and available for walking, cycling, skating, and beach access. This is a great place for a sunset stroll. The path covers visual and physical access to: Surfing, cycling, skating, walking, tidepools, beach, kite flying, fishing, frisbee, sponge and skimboarding, dogs playing on the beach and open fields, sea otters, seals, whales and dolphins and monarch butterflies in season, pelicans, cormorants, seagulls and shorebirds, crabs, sea anemones, lighthouse, and all ages of people out enjoying themselves. Within walking distance of one end is the Boardwalk and municipal pier, the other end has Natural Bridges State Park. Moderate temperature in summer. Bring your camera, binoculars, and the whole family including your dog (leash required on the path but not on Lighthouse Beach). Probably one of the most densely packed nature walks and recreation area in Santa Cruz. Accessibility: This trail follows two miles of a paved, mixed-use bicycle path along the scenic Santa Cruz Coast. It is smooth with a typical width of at least four feet. The estimated average grade is 2% and the max grade is 6% so it is mostly gentle.Show more
#3 - Wilder Ridge, Baldwin, Ohlone Bluff and Old Cove Landing Trail
Wilder Ranch State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(235)
Length: 10.1 mi • Est. 4 h 40 m
#4 - Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field Loop
Natural Bridges State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray Star(112)
Length: 4.8 mi • Est. 2 h 1 m
Please note: This beach continues to be temporarily closed to vehicular access, meaning there are no parking facilities and parking on roadways is prohibited to protect public health from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the beach is open to local residents. Explore tide pools and beach habitat at Natural Bridges State Park, a beautiful and popular place to walk. In this oasis between the ocean and the edge of Santa Cruz lies one of the largest monarch butterfly overwintering sites in the western United States. The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers. In 1983, California State Parks made the monarch grove a natural preserve and sanctuary for these fragile world travelers. Monarchs journey as far as 2,000 miles on their paper-thin wings, seeking protected places like this one where they can find food, warmth and shelter. This grove provides the ideal conditions for the butterflies—and for you to see them. Look through the spotting scope to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sight of hundreds of monarchs clustered together in the canopy. The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers. Moore Creek flows through the meadows and forms wetlands in the sand. Walk even further along the bluffs when it is low tide. Accessibility: The beginning of this trail from the Natural Bridges parking lot to the coastline may be too steep and have too many switchbacks to be accessible but the three miles along the coastline on the West Cliff Multi-Purpose Cycleway that goes to Lighthouse Field State Beach is paved and mostly flat with a max grade of 3%. There is waypoint marking the beginning of this bike path on the map, and there is a parking lot right next to that point on the coast for closer parking.Show more
#5 - Four Mile Beach
Wilder Ranch State Park
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Length: 1.2 mi • Est. 32 m
#6 - Santa Cruz and Capitola Beach Ride
Wilder Ranch State Park
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Length: 24.5 mi
#7 - UCSC to the Sea
Santa Cruz, California
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Length: 18.7 mi • Est. 8 h 44 m
#8 - Santa Cruz Wharf Walk
Santa Cruz, California
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Length: 1.1 mi • Est. 27 m
#9 - Moran Lake Trail to Pleasure Point
Moran Lake Park
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Length: 2.6 mi • Est. 1 h 6 m
#10 - Eucalyptus and Baldwin Loop Trail
Wilder Ranch State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(7)
Length: 11.3 mi • Est. 5 h 30 m
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