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These Are The Santa Cruz Hikes You Need To Take
Health & Fitness

These Are The Santa Cruz Hikes You Need To Take

From short and easy to long and difficult, these Santa Cruz hikes will get your heart pumping.

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5 min read

October 11, 2021

To many, Santa Cruz is just Surf City; it’s all about beaches, beaches, and more beaches. And while there’s some truth to that, there are so many things to do and see in this gorgeous Central Coast city that many won’t know where to start. We’ll let you in on a secret—a lot of those things are worth seeing on foot, preferably on a hike. Whether you like oceanside strolls or getting lost in the forest, Santa Cruz has something for your taste. From short and easy to long and difficult, these Santa Cruz hikes will get your heart pumping.

These Are The Best Hikes in Santa Cruz

To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles. The best view comes after the hardest climb. Think outside. No box required.

Old Landing Cove Trail

Location: Wilder Ranch State Park
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: $10 
Level of difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.3 miles
Time: 1 hour
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: No

Sometimes, all you need for a fresh start to your day is a good and easy hike by the ocean. Considered one of the best Santa Cruz hiking trails, the Old Landing Cove Trail is the perfect place to enjoy the sunrise. Get in your morning exercise as you watch the gulls, pelicans, and sea lions going about their day near the shore—you might even spot migrating whales. This kid and wheelchair-friendly hike can be turned into a family affair as well. 

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Enchanted Loop Trail

Location: Wilder Ranch Park
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free 
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.1 miles
Time: 2 hours
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: No

The Enchanted Loop Trail is as captivating as its name insinuates. With breathtaking ocean views at the start of the trail and a dense forest towards the end, the trail gives you the best of both worlds. Four Mile Beach, one of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz, is also nearby, so this can also be a fun outdoor date with your boo. Now that you know one of the best hikes in Santa Cruz, what are you waiting for? 

A bad day hiking is better than a good day doing anything else. A walk in nature walks the soul back home.

Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field Loop

Location: Natural Bridges State Beach, Lighthouse Field State Beach
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free
Level of difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.8 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: No

How about hiking around one of the best and most photographed beaches in California? Natural Bridges State Beach is as photogenic as it gets, and when the hike is easy, you have no excuse to not go. When hiking this trail, you’ll come across one of the largest monarch butterfly groves in the United States. Captivated enough? This oceanside hike is a can’t-miss thing to do in Santa Cruz that you’ll be raving about for a long time. 

When everything feels like an uphill battle, just think of the view from the top. There is no WiFi in the forest, but you’ll make a better connection.

Redwoods Reborn-Fall Creek

Location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Available
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: No

This hike near Santa Cruz is where you’ll get up close and personal with the redwood forests of the city. Due to the concentration of redwood trees, this hike is one nature lovers adore—you get the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while trekking an uncrowded path. This 8.5-mile trail allows you to explore the Fall Creek Unit, as well as hike past the Big Ben Tree and the famous Barrel Mill Area. If rivers, forests, and a good challenge are your thing, the Redwoods Reborn-Fall Creek trail will be one you can’t miss. Get your outdoor gear from the nearest company because you’ll be falling in love with hiking in no time.

Dog-Friendly Hikes in Santa Cruz

The trail leads not merely north and south, but up to the body, mind, and soul of person. Take hikes and conquer your fears.

West Cliff Drive

Location: Lighthouse Field State Beach
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free 
Level of difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 1.5 hours
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: On leash

The West Cliff Drive trail is a dog-friendly hike in Santa Cruz perfect for all skill levels—it’s basically a stroll that offers great views of the Pacific Ocean. The trail is not only perfect for hiking, but you can also cycle and skateboard on the premises. You’re in one of the best surf towns in the U.S., so it’s natural that the trail provides access to many beach activities such as tidepooling, fishing, and surfing. Let your pup tag along on a journey you both will be returning to time and again. 

Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better. Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.

Upper DeLaveaga Loop

Location: DeLaveaga Park
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: $2
Level of difficulty: Moderate 
Distance: 1.6 miles
Time: Less than an hour
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: On leash

The Upper DeLaveaga Loop gives you the opportunity to go on a quick hike and spend time with your four-legged friend at the same time. This local favorite Santa Cruz trail barely takes an hour of your time and is inclined just enough to get your heart pumping without giving you a heart attack. As one of the best hikes in California, the Upper DeLaveaga Loop exposes you and your pup to towering oaks and old-growth redwood trees. The next time you need to squeeze in a little exercise, enjoy this shaded trail in the gorgeous forests of Santa Cruz.

You can visit the same trail twice, but you’ll never take the same hike twice. Take only memories, leave only footprints.

Emma McCrary Trail to U-Con Trail

Location: Pogonip Open Space Preserve
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: $2
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 2 hours
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: on leash

Do you like challenges? What about your furry friend? If both of you are up for a challenge, this Santa Cruz mountain hike is the answer to your questions. The Emma McCrary Trail to U-Con Trail is an uphill hike that sounds exhausting, but don’t get discouraged—it’s not as steep as it sounds. With plenty of fresh air and lots of shade to catch your breath, you won’t feel the tiredness hitting you at all, lush groves of redwood trees will also make the effort worthwhile. So, put your dog on a leash and get ready to experience Santa Cruz at its best.

Which of these hikes have you been on? Let us know in the comments below!

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