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  • Santa Cruz County
  • Santa Cruz County, California

    For top outdoor adventures in Santa Cruz County, California, the Skyline to the Sea Trail is a must-visit. This scenic 29.5-mile trail takes you from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, offering breathtaking views of redwood forests, waterfalls, and creeks along the way. The trail is moderately difficult, making it suitable for most hikers. For a shorter hike, try the 4.7-mile Wilder Ranch State Park Loop, which features stunning ocean views and historic farm buildings. For a unique outdoor attraction, visit the Natural Bridges State Beach, home to a natural rock arch in the sea. So, if you're looking for the best trails and outdoor activities, Santa Cruz County has plenty to offer.

    Top Spots in and near Santa Cruz County

    • Capitola, California

      Camp at New Brighton Campground

      / 0 ft gain
      This Capitola camping spot is the place to be if you're looking to do a variety of activities in a variety of landscapes. You can swim, fish, or explore the nearby forest of Monterey Pine and coastal Oak. In the evening, walk into Capitola for live music and great fish tacos.  The S.S. Palo Alto,...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Natural Bridges State Beach

      4.3
      Natural Bridges State Beach is a wonderful place to photograph located in Santa Cruz off of West Cliff Drive. This is a great place to practice long exposure photography to capture awesome water movement as it passes through the "Natural Bridge" formation. The best time to shoot this spot is at ...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Surf at Natural Bridges State Beach

      4.5
      Natural Bridges is off of West Cliff Drive to the north of popular Santa Cruz break, Steamer Lane. The break is a right point break, which breaks on a rocky shelf and reef. The break is best during sizable swells (NW, SW, and West) and a low tide. Be sure to check the wind, this break gets blown ...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Photograph Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges' Monarch Grove

      4.3
      The park's Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for thousands of Monarchs. From late fall into winter they make this their home and if you time it perfectly you can see them in clusters in the trees.  When you reached the Natural Bridges State Park, on the right of the Visitors Center you'll f...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Hike Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field

      3.5
      4.8 mi / 121 ft gain
      This is a paved trail that can be used for hiking, jogging, or walking.  It offers over 2 miles of beautiful California coast.  Walk through flowers, see the jagged cliffs, and of course the lighthouse at the end!  This walk can be done from either direction.  Start at Natural Bridges and head We...
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    • Aptos, California

      Bridge Creek Trail to Maple Falls

      7.99 mi / 1089 ft gain
      Bridge Creek Trail to Maple Falls is an out-and-back trail that takes you by a waterfall located near Aptos, California.
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    • Aptos, California

      Hike to Nisene Marks' Maple Falls

      4.6
      8.5 mi / 900 ft gain
      As you enter the park, you'll need to pay $8 for parking via a self-pay envelope, so it's recommended that you bring exact change. At the park booth, be sure to grab a map. The hike can be a little tricky with no cell service and limited trail signage. Once you've grabbed your map, keep driving p...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Surf Four Mile Beach

      4.0
      Four Mile is a reef/point break that is a couple of miles north of town. This spot usually picks up more swell than in town so it is a popular spot for many locals to surf. When the swell picks up, it offers long rights towards the beach. The current can be strong when there is a lot of swell in ...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Explore Panther Beach

      4.5
      Panther Beach's white sand, clear water, and interesting rock formations make it one of the most stunning beaches along this stretch of CA1. But this is a hidden gem for a reason - there are no signs along CA1 for Panther Beach. You need to keep you eyes peeled for cars parked along the side of t...
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    • Santa Cruz, California

      Photographing the Sunset at Panther Beach

      5.0
      Probably my favorite beach in the Santa Cruz area. Panther Beach lies just south of Davenport along the beautiful Hwy 1. Park at a large dirt pull out on the left hand side if your heading north from Santa Cruz. The trail down to the beach is steep and not that well maintained so watch your step....
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    • Davenport, California

      Beach Picnic at Shark Fin Cove

      4.3
      Shark Fin Cove is a large rock formation in an inlet off Highway 1 in Northern California. It is located 1 mile south of Davenport and 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. There is a sizable parking lot located on the side of Highway 1 to park in. Walk down the path left of the parking lot and cross the...
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    • Los Gatos, California

      Mountain Bike Soquel Demonstration Forest

      11 mi / 2070 ft gain
      As with many trail systems there are multiple routes and loops available at Sequel Demonstration forest of varying lengths and difficulty. The 3 main trails are all accessed via the same parking area on highland way. The most popular trail is the all skill levels "Flow" trail, followed by two sho...
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    • Morgan Hill, California

      Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop

      4.0
      1.48 mi / 463 ft gain
      Uvas Canyon offers up to 6-miles of hiking trails, which includes a 1.5 mile loop, which runs along Swanson Creek and passes many of the park's waterfalls. To take short loop, head North out of the parking lot to the Swanson Creek Trail. Once you find Swanson Creek Trail, you'll be on the Waterfa...
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    • Davenport, California

      Hike around Greyhound Beach and Climb Greyhound Rock

      0.7 mi / 0 ft gain
      The trailhead is at the Greyhound Rock State Marine Conservation Area which is directly off Highway 1. There is a large paved parking lot with a good amount of trees so finding a shady parking spot isn't that difficult (if that's important to you). The parking lot is located on the beach cliffs ...
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    • Sanborn County Park, California

      Hike Sanborn County Park via the San Andreas Trail

      4.0
      4.2 mi / 1282 ft gain
      This is a moderately rated 4.2 mile trail that winds through the redwoods west of Saratoga.  It features a dirt trail with tall trees and a creek.  The hike is very tranquil and there is lot s of greenery.  There are big rocks in the creek that can you can sit on.  People often meditate here as i...
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    • Los Gatos, California

      Hike the Saratoga Gap Trail

      4.6
      4.7 mi
      The Saratoga Gap Trail is relatively lightly trafficked trail that is good year round, although waterfalls peak in late winter and spring. Overall, this 4.7 mile partial loop hike is moderate, with about 1000 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 3090 feet. The featured hike desc...
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