The Best Photography in Santa Cruz

Looking for the best photography in Santa Cruz? We've got you covered with the top trails, trips, hiking, backpacking, camping and more around Santa Cruz. The detailed guides, photos, and reviews are all submitted by the Outbound community.

Top photography spots in and near Santa Cruz

  • Santa Cruz, California

    Beach Day at Lighthouse Field State Beach

    4.0
    This beach is less crowded compared to other beaches in Santa Cruz.  I got there early on a Saturday and found easy street parking.  There was plenty of space to spread out on the soft sand.  Later in the day I saw dolphins several times!  This is close to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.  It’s als...
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  • Santa Cruz, California

    Photograph the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

    5.0
    No matter the time you'll decide to visit the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, you'll have thousands of interesting plants and birds to see and watch. The Arboretum is located on the west side of UCSC campus, between the main campus entrance and the west entrance. Parking is 5$ for adults and 2$ for chil...
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  • Santa Cruz, California

    Catch a Sunset at Natural Bridges State Beach

    4.4
    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 s...
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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 the Rincon Fire Trail

    5.0
    1 mi / 300 ft gain
    The Rincon Fire Trail Starts at a small dirt parking lot next to CA-9 and traverses down the mountain to the San Lorenzo River Connecting with the Pipeline Trail. The trail can be a simple one of a mile out and back or up to 5 miles depending on your preference. The elevation will change by about...
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  • Felton, California

    Take a Stroll on the Redwood Grove Loop

    4.0
    0.8 mi / 20 ft gain
    Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located just a few miles north of the city of Santa Cruz, along Highway 9. The park is home to an array of hiking and biking trails, but the crown jewel of the park is the Redwood Grove Loop Trail, which is only a 1/4 mile in from the park's entrance.Many peopl...
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  • Felton, California

    Hike to the Observation Deck in Henry Cowell Redwoods SP

    4.3
    5 mi / 600 ft gain
    The trail starts at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Visitors Center. Grab a map in the center, as your hike has you turning onto a few different trails to get to the observation deck.  Start on the Pipeline Road trail. Wandering amongst stunning redwoods, you will eventually turn left onto E...
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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

    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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  • Morgan Hill, California

    Uvas Canyon Waterfall Hike

    4.0
    1.5 mi
    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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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Camp at Sempervirens in Big Basin Redwoods

    / 993 ft gain
    Amidst the giant redwoods, Sempervirens is a breath of fresh air from the every busy Silicon Valley. Make sure to arrive in time to explore Sempervirens Creek. The wooded trails are perfect for running or hiking. Each campground comes with a picnic table and a fire ring, perfect for enjoying camp...
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  • Moss Landing, California

    Kayak in Elkhorn Slough

    4.9
    Elkhorn Slough is located in Moss Landing, which is in the dead center of Monterey Bay, California. Elkhorn Slough is one of California's largest wetlands and part of a National Estuarine Reserve located in central Monterey Bay, California, just a short trip from the Monterey Peninsula and the Sa...
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  • Moss Landing, California

    Kayak with Humpback Whales in Monterey Bay

    5.0
    Disclaimer: Please keep a respectful distance from the whales and other sea wildlife for their protection and your own. Note, changing the animal's natural behavior is a violation of federal law.Every year, humpbacks whale migrate north from their winter and breeding grounds down in southern Mex...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Hike to Sempervirens Falls

    4.0
    2.1 mi / 100 ft gain
    The hike to Sempervirens Falls is an easy 2.1 mile out-and-back hike on the Sequoia Trail. You'll travel through the redwood forest and some of the campgrounds located in Big Basin State Park. The hike is pleasant but on occasion, you'll be too close to the road to feel like you're deep in the wi...
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