Santa Cruz is surrounded by beautiful scenery and seascapes, most parks are within cycling and walking distances and all have hiking trails or bike trails. A few blocks from the Inn is West Cliff Drive which is your gateway to Natural Bridges State Park where the Monarch butterflies come to mate between October and February, Wilder Ranch and Seymour Long Marine Discovery Lab. East Cliff will take you to Cowell’s where surfing lessons are available. Venturing out you will find serenity of the parks.
West Cliff Drive
West Cliff Drive, located about 10 blocks from the Inn, follows the coast line of west side Santa Cruz with a bike path that overlooks Monterey Bay. You’ll enjoy spectacular ocean views on bike or foot, Numerous paths extend down to the beach where you can find a cozy private nook surrounded by the cliffs. You can join the local surf hot spot at Steamer’s Lane. There you can observe otters, seals and dolphins.
Natural Bridges State Park
West Cliff Drive • 831-423-4609
This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub meadows, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through these meadows, forming a wetlands in the sand.
Lighthouse State Beach
West Cliff Drive • (831)429-2850
Also known as Point Santa Cruz, this area forms the northern boundary of Monterey Bay. It is one of the last open headlands in any California urban area. Surfers, tourists, birds – including the rare Black Swift and wintering Monarch butterflies are drawn to this area. Sea lions populate the offshore rocks.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is prized by people from Santa Cruz. A campground like this is too magnificent to miss. Lighthouse Field State Beach is a splendid spot to go if you’re at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park; a golf course close by is Pasatiempo Golf Club.
333 Golf Club Drive • (831) 420-5270
Pogonip features approximately 8 miles of hiking trails. In the northernmost portion of Pogonip, a multi-use trail (approximately one mile in length) is open hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. This multi-use trail provides a connection between Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Pogonip, and the upper UCSC campus. Bicycles and horses are prohibited on all other trails. Bicyclists must ride responsibly and at a safe speed.
Aptos Creek Road, Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA • (831)763-7062
The park offers rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet. Once the site of logging operations until the 1920s, visitors can still find evidence of logging operations, mill sites and trestles in the park. With over 30 miles of trails, hiking, jogging and biking are some of the activities to be enjoyed here. Picnic tables and barbecue pits are available. A trail camp is located six miles from the nearest parking lot.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park, established in 1902. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, the park consists of over 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. The park features family and group camping, tent cabins, backpacking camps, 80 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails. The park has a surprising number of waterfalls and a wide variety of environments from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes.
Monterey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Monterey was once a leading fishing and whaling port, but its economic mainstay is now tourism. The offshore Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (established 1992) protects an abyss deeper than the Grand Canyon and its myriad denizens, which include more than 30 species of mammals, more than 300 species of fish, and nearly 100 species of birds; many tourists visit the sanctuary to watch the whales.