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Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

There are trails in Santa Cruz to suit every taste, like strolling through forests of enormous redwoods, following coastal paths high on the cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean, or going on a tour to see some of the local animals. Numerous treks follow the coast, passing across parks and expansive sandy beaches. However, some climbs are located inland, with paths twisting over hills as well as captivating mountains or descending into majestic woods, pretty cool? Following are some of the top Santa Cruz hikes

Old Landing Cove Trail

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Old Landing Cove Trail circles a farm that runs beside the Pacific and is one of the best hikes in Santa Cruz. For those who enjoy history, you will see vintage automobiles and farming equipment as well as pelicans in the sky or passing whales. Take a level walk through the countryside to get to the seashore, starting from the visitor center parking lot of the State Park. After circling back inland and returning to the parking area, follow the track and enjoy views of the gorgeous coastline and a large number of seals from the viewpoints.

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Natural Bridges Tide Pools

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Experience the beauty of Santa Cruz with a stroll through natural bridges and tide pools at Natural Bridges State Beach. This easy hike starts at the parking lot, meanders through the park, and leads to the beach, where you can enjoy stunning views from the natural bridge. Afterward, meander through a quaint residential area before returning to the beach to explore vibrant tide pools filled with colorful sea life like crabs, sea stars, and rainbow-hued sea anemones. Remember to visit during low tide and tread carefully on the potentially slippery rocks.

  • Distance: 1.2 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

West Cliff Drive

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

West Cliff Drive is one of the best Santa Cruz hiking trails. It is a public trail to bike and walk that runs alongside the Pacific Ocean. Start your journey at Santa Cruz Wharf and follow the trail to Natural Bridges State Park. During your hike, you'll spot surfers riding the waves at popular surfing spots, with the scenery getting more impressive as you go further. Be sure to visit the nearby beaches for the opportunity to watch dolphins as well as tide pools and whales.

  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

La Corona Trail

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

One of the best places to go hiking in Santa Cruz is La Corona Trail. The final stretch of the La Corona Trail is a unique 27-hole disc golf course, followed by a "Top of the World" overlook. The route offers a combination of sunshine, shadow, and diverse landscape as it winds through Delaveaga Park's hills and forested areas. Walking uphill will eventually get you to the top of the hill, where you can enjoy the disc golf course and stunning sights of the surroundings. After you've got enough of the views from the top, you may loop around the hill by joining the Enchanted Trail, and then you can rejoin the Corona Trail once again to travel back down to the trailhead.

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Redwood Grove Loop Trail and Cowell Highlights Loop

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

We can’t skip Henry Corwell Park when it comes to the best places to hike in Santa Cruz. It is renowned for its magnificent redwood trees and its picturesque train journey that winds through the park's mountains as well as the gorgeous forests to the town. By going along the Redwood Groove Loop Trail, you'll come across massive redwoods that tower over 300 feet in height. It is believed that some of the park's trees are thousands of years old. With its Redwood grove—where it's difficult to believe these natural giants are still alive—this journey highlights the finest that this old park has to offer. Moreover, it is one of Santa Cruz's busiest walks. 

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Roaring Camp Loop Trail

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Explore the scenic Roaring Camp Loop Trail in Henry Cowell State Park, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This beautiful path takes you past the historic Roaring Camp railroad, where you can see both old and new railway sights. Hike around Bear Mountain, surrounded by majestic redwoods as well as gorgeous live oaks, with occasional gentle slopes. Don't miss the chance to ride the Roaring Camp Railroads for a fun forest adventure, and kids will love exploring the vintage train station too!

  • Distance: 1.9 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Bonny Doon Beach and Shark Fin Cove Loop

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

For a beach adventure, check out the Bonny Doon Beach and Shark Fin Cove Loop. Start by walking down to Bonny Doon Beach, then head up to the bluffs and stroll towards Shark Fin Cove for stunning coastal views. Follow the path to the brook near Davenport Beach, then walk alongside the railroad tracks inland and circle back to Coastal Dairies State Park. Keep an eye out for wildlife like lizards, pelicans, and groundhogs, and enjoy a beautiful sunset if you're lucky!

  • Distance: 2.7 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Loma Prieta Grade to bridge creek and West Ridge loop

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Santa Cruz by exploring The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Spend your afternoon hiking among the tall redwoods and Douglas fir trees. The trail features several bridges to help you cross streams along the way. Don't miss the West Ridge Trail for breathtaking views. You can trek via canyons that are narrow, step over rocks, and marvel at the majestic second-growth redwoods. Follow the Bridge Creek Trail to reach Maple Falls, a stunning 30-foot waterfall surrounded by maple trees. It's worth the extra mile for this beautiful sight.

  • Distance: 8.7 Miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Ano Nuevo Hike

Top 9 Hiking Trails to Explore in Santa Cruz

Ano Nuevo State Park is the place to go if you've ever wanted to see the hefty and sometimes grumpy elephant seals up close. For an unforgettable experience, take the Ano Nuevo hike, which begins with a gravel road along the cliffs, leading to sand dunes and a boardwalk. At the end of the trail, you'll reach an overlook where you can observe many elephant seals in action. This hike is one of the best Santa Cruz hiking trails, offering a chance to observe these playful and noisy seals frolicking on the beach. It's worth the trip out of the city!

  • Distance: 4.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

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