Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California has many great spots for outdoor adventurers. With its stunning beaches, lush parks, and scenic trails, there is something for everyone. From kayaking and paddleboarding to beach volleyball and surfing, there are plenty of water activities to enjoy. For those who prefer to stay on land, there are plenty of trails to explore, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Visitors can also explore the nearby redwood forests and take a stroll along the Area Santa Cruz Boardwalk. For a unique experience, take a whale watching tour or a boat ride to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There are also plenty of must-visit attractions in and near the area, such as the Santa Cruz Wharf, Natural Bridges State Beach, and the Mystery Spot. With so many options, Santa Cruz is the perfect destination for those seeking an unforgettable outdoor experience.

Top Spots in and near Santa Cruz

  • Felton, California

    Redwood Grove Loop

    4.0
    0.93 mi / 144 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 peo...
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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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  • Soquel, California

    Land of Medicine Buddha Loop

    4.5
    5.74 mi / 915 ft gain
    Near the retreat, there is a short trail called "Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail" providing people with the opportunity to meditate on thought transformation in a peaceful and picturesque outdoor setting. From there, a beautiful 6 mile loop will take you up to the top of the ridge and then back aro...
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  • Felton, California

    Tree Climb Mount Hermon

    5.0
    Climbing an aerial obstacle course through the redwoods of Mount Hermon is a great way to experience the thrill of climbing and being in the trees.  See what it's like to scurry through the trees like a squirrel.  This unique vantage point offers amazing views of the redwoods. There are many aeri...
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  • Felton, California

    Limestone Kilns and Big Ben Redwood Loop

    5.0
    8.37 mi / 1598 ft gain
    Henry Cowell Redwood State Park is a super easy destination to get to from Santa Cruz, but the seclusion of the Fall Creek Unit makes this a big bang for buck hike. This hike will take you to Big Ben, a medium sized old growth Redwood, and the abandoned Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Company Kilns ...
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  • Felton, California

    Hike Fall Creek at Henry Cowell SP

    5.0
    9.7 mi / 2191 ft gain
    This quiet 10 mile hike features a winding creek and tall redwoods throughout the trail.  The parking at the Fall Creek Trailhead is limited, so it is best to get there before 10am.  There are redwoods very close to the trail and a good portion is alongside the creek.  Most of the trail is dirt, ...
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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

    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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  • Davenport, California

    Kitesurf Waddell Beach

    4.0
    Just north of Santa Cruz at the far west end of Big Basin State Park, Waddell Beach offers one of California's top spots for kiteboarding.  Each spring and summer, you'll find consistent northwesterly afternoon sea breezes.  With the added bonus of consistent waves from wind and ground swell, Wad...
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  • Moss Landing, California

    Kayak in Elkhorn Slough

    4.7
    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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