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A Guide to Visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

A Guide to Visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Discover the beauty of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, a redwood paradise with plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Team


2 min read

July 12, 2023

Nestled within the resplendent beauty of California's central coast, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a tranquil refuge that spans over 10,000 acres. This hiker's paradise is located just a few miles northeast of the scenic town of Aptos, a short distance away from Santa Cruz. Encapsulating dense redwood forests, sprawling meadows, rippling creeks, and a fascinating assortment of wildlife, the park offers an enchanting blend of nature's finest elements.

The history of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is as captivating as its landscape. The area was once extensively logged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially for its towering redwoods. However, thanks to conservation efforts that began in the 1960s, spearheaded by the Marks family, the forest has rebounded spectacularly. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of nature's resilience, a once-depleted land now resplendent with the grandeur of regenerated redwoods and rich biodiversity.

The towering trees and lush foliage makes the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park a great place to visit.

When to Visit: A Seasonal Guide


In the spring, the forest erupts into a riot of colors, with wildflowers like the fairy lantern, trillium, and the vibrant red of Indian paintbrush blanketing the landscape. The creeks, fed by winter rains, are at their fullest, making this an excellent time for those who enjoy the soothing sounds of rushing water accompanying their hikes.


Summer ushers in pleasant, warm weather that's perfect for hiking, biking, and picnicking. The thick canopy of the redwoods provides ample shade, keeping the trails cool and comfortable. This is also the best time to spot various bird species, as many are active during these months.


Autumn presents a spectacle of its own, with the leaves of Bigleaf maples and alder trees turning into a cascade of yellows, oranges, and reds. This time of year is less crowded, offering a more serene, peaceful experience of the park.


Winter is a season of quiet beauty at the Forest of Nisene Marks. Misty rain often shrouds the forest, creating a mystical atmosphere. It's the ideal time for those seeking solitude and a connection with the profound quietude of nature. However, be prepared for trail closures due to wet conditions or fallen trees.

Taking a stroll through one of the several trails at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Top 5 Things to Do at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Hiking the Trails

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a hiker's dream, with over 30 miles of trails ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs. A favorite amongst many is the Aptos Creek Fire Road leading to the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. This 10-mile round-trip journey takes you through stunning redwood groves and offers historical insights via informative trail markers.

Mountain Biking

If you're into cycling, the park allows mountain biking on fire roads. These rugged routes present a thrilling challenge for any bike enthusiast. The scenery of the park adds to the experience, making for a truly unforgettable ride. Remember, though, single-track trails are reserved for foot traffic only to protect the park's delicate ecosystems.

Bird Watching

Thanks to its rich biodiversity, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a haven for bird watchers. Species such as the pileated woodpecker, marbled murrelet, and various hawks can often be spotted. Bring your binoculars and enjoy a peaceful day amidst nature while observing these feathered residents.

Camping at Porter Family Picnic Area

For those looking to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature, spending a night at the Porter Family Picnic Area is a must. After a six-mile trek from the park's entrance, you'll find this secluded spot surrounded by towering redwoods. It's a perfect place for a family picnic during the day or a serene night of camping under the stars.

Guided Nature Walks

To gain an enriched understanding of the park's flora, fauna, and history, consider joining a guided nature walk. The park rangers are knowledgeable and passionate, making these walks both educational and entertaining. Check with the park's visitor center for schedules and availability.

In conclusion, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park offers an expansive array of activities that cater to a variety of interests. Whether you prefer challenging hikes, adrenaline-pumping bike rides, serene bird-watching, immersive camping experiences, or informative guided walks, this majestic park has something for everyone.

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