Best trails in Santa Cruz, California

5,015 Reviews
Looking for a great trail near Santa Cruz, California? AllTrails has 62 great hiking trails, trail running trails, mountain biking trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. If you're looking for the best trails around Castle Rock State Park or The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, we've got you covered. You'll also find some great local park options, like Almaden Quicksilver County Park or Uvas Canyon County Park. Ready for some activity? There are 36 moderate trails in Santa Cruz ranging from 0.6 to 28.3 miles and from 45 to 2,004 feet above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!
Show more
Map of trails in Santa Cruz, California
Top trails (62)
#1 - Old Landing Cove Trail
Wilder Ranch State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(912)
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 - 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(352)
Length: 10.1 mi • Est. 4 h 40 m
#3 - West Cliff Drive
Lighthouse Field State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(454)
Length: 4.0 mi • Est. 1 h 39 m
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. According to Access Northern California (http://accessnca.org/access-northern-california/explore/explore-detail-view/?site_id=57): ACCESSIBILITY: There is designated accessible parking, van accessible, hard, that is level or with a slope no greater than 2% along West Cliff Drive by the lighthouse, at the lot just outside the entrance to Natural Bridges State Park, and at the entrance to Cowell Beach at the southernmost end of West Cliff Drive. There are wheelchair-accessible bathrooms near the lighthouse and Cowell Beach and the visitor center is wheelchair-accessible. This paved bicycle and pedestrian path along West Cliff Drive starts at the Santa Cruz Wharf and gently climbs uphill for close to three miles, to Natural Bridges State Park. It is smooth with a typical width of at least four feet. The estimated grade is 6% or less so it is mostly gentle. As you leave Cowell Beach, you will encounter one of the few steep inclines--less than an eighth of a mile, which levels out past a couple of hotels. There is a steep section from Cowell Beach to about a tenth of a mile past the hotels, after which the trail levels out. The trail can be crowded on weekends and after work, but there's enough room to travel in a wheelchair. The path frequently veers away from the road's edge and runs along a blufftop covered with ice plant. You’ll find benches and water fountains at several spots along the way. In about a mile, just off Point Santa Cruz, you will pass Steamer Lane, a famous surf spot for year-round competitions. On the other side of the point you can watch sea lions bask in the sun and see waves crashing for miles up the coastline. The path ends in another mile at Natural Bridges State Park. Beaches appear at low tide, but there is no wheelchair access.Show more
#4 - Pacific to Redwoods Loop
Wilder Ranch State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(161)
Length: 12.0 mi • Est. 5 h 40 m
Use extreme caution around the cliffs near the ocean. Dress in layers: it can be very chilly near the ocean and quite warm in the park's higher reaches. The park is very popular on weekends; a weekday visit will be much more pleasant.Show more
#5 - Redwoods Reborn - Fall Creek
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(150)
Length: 8.5 mi • Est. 4 h 34 m
This trail is a great way to explore the Fall Creek Unit on the Fall Creek Trail. Hike past such monuments as the Big Ben Tree and the Barrel Mill Area. The Fell Creek offers beautiful redwood forests and a chance to get away from the crowds. Signs can be poorly marked, so users recommend downloading the offline maps ahead of time. Take the Big Ben Trail to the Fell Creek Trail and return via the Lost Empire Trail. For more information, see the park website here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=546Show more
#6 - Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field Loop
Natural Bridges State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(128)
Length: 4.8 mi • Est. 2 h 1 m
Information about any current COVID-19 closures in this park can be found on the park page here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=541 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 route from the Natural Bridges parking lot to the coastline may be too steep and have too many switchbacks to be wheelchair or stroller friendly 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 gentle (5% or less), except for a very steep -13% downhill section at 0.7 miles. There is a waypoint marking the beginning of the bike path on the map, and there is a parking lot right next to that point on the coast for closer parking (just west).Show more
#7 - Fern Trail, Spring Trail and Lookout Trail Loop
Pogonip Open Space Preserve
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray Star(179)
Length: 4.6 mi • Est. 2 h 18 m
Lookout Trail is NOT dog friendly, and if you are doing this loop as it is done in the title with a pooch, you will have to turn north on the western edge of the large prairie after Fern Trail onto Brayshaw Trail to connect back to Spring trail. Enjoy the wonder of the Pogonip open Space Preserve. This scenic loop offers a connection between Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Pogonip, and the upper UCSC campus.Show more
#8 - Emma McCrary Trail to U-Con Trail
Pogonip Open Space Preserve
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(262)
Length: 5.7 mi • Est. 2 h 53 m
#9 - Englesman Loop Trail
Wilder Ranch State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(175)
Length: 4.5 mi • Est. 2 h 10 m
#10 - Englesman, Long Meadow, Eucalyptus, Wilder Ridge Loop
Wilder Ranch State Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(99)
Length: 9.6 mi • Est. 4 h 41 m
Showing results 1 - 10 of 62