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

  • 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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  • Moss Landing, California

    Whale Watching off Moss Landing

    The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to some of the most diverse and rich waters in our oceans, and you have the chance to see it up close and personal! The big prize is getting to see a whale, but these waters are teeming with other wildlife from dolphins to otters to sea lions.  F...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Big Basin's Sunset Trail Camp

    4.8
    9.46 mi / 2146 ft gain
    This trail and campsite is currently closed (learn more). Looking for a more authentic hiking and camping weekend, without having to drive hours away to find it? Then the Sunset Trail Camp within Big Basin Redwoods SP is your ticket. To access this site, you'll need to hike the famous Skyline-to...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Berry Creek Falls Loop (Closed)

    4.8
    10 mi / 2310 ft gain
    Unfortunately, this trail is closed due to a past fire. See CA.Gov for updates on trails in Big Basin.  Nestled in California's oldest state park, the popular Berry Creek Falls Loop hike begins at the Big Basin park headquarters. If you're up for 11 miles, a thousand feet of elevation gain throu...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Camp at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

    4.0
    0.5 mi
    Big Basin is currently closed including the campgrounds. Please visit the Parks.ca.gov site for updated details.  An hour away from the thrumming city of San Jose, ancient immense trees live in a forest full of vibrant ferns and rushing waterfalls. Big Basin Redwoods State Park encompasses 10,00...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Hike the Ocean View Summit Loop

    4.0
    6 mi / 600 ft gain
    This hike begins at the Big Basin park headquarters. If you're up for 6 miles through giant redwoods and along serene creeks, and with an ocean view, then this is the hike for you. Ocean view summit loop starts on the Gazos Creek Road bridge, next turn right on to the Middle Ridge Fire Road, whic...
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  • Boulder Creek, California

    Hike the Old Growth Redwoods Trail

    4.5
    0.5 mi
    Quick half-mile stroll through the old growth Redwoods that will show you the nature of the ever-living redwood tree.Redwoods are capable of withstanding storms, floods, fire, droughts, and even termites. These legendary trees can live for over 2,000 years and possess incredible strength, vigor, ...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Pick Berries at Swanton's Berry Farm

    Take a spectacularly scenic drive or bike ride out to this quaint coastal berry farm. Look out onto the shimmering ocean while you pick the ripest and sweetest berries yourself. Head inside their shop to enjoy pre-made jams, pies, chocolate covered strawberries, and so much more. While you're ins...
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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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  • Saratoga, California

    Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

    4.5
    30.22 mi / 3409 ft gain
    Want to experience one of the bay area's most memorable backpacking trips? We've got the details to get you out on the trail. To start the trek, drop your car at the Castle Rock State Park Parking Lot, which is located ~2.5 miles south of the junctions of Highways 35 and 9 off of Highway 35. Not...
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  • Saratoga, California

    Backpack Castle Rock State Park

    4.7
    Castle Rock Trail Camp has a different policy than other backcountry camps in the area (i.e. campsites along Skyline to the Sea). This campground is open all year and is available on a first come, first served basis. If you can, grab a spot a Frog Flat Camp. To get to the camp, park your car at t...
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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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  • 21600 Big Basin Way, California

    Hike the Sequoia Trail at Big Basin Redwoods SP

    4.0
    4.3 mi / 600 ft gain
    This 4.3 mile hike in Big Basin Redwoods SP is a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.   In the first half, there is a quick detour you can take to Sempervirens Falls.  Just listen for sounds of water, read the signs, and cross the road.  The detour itself is as far as cross...
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  • San Jose, California

    Hike the Quicksilver Trail

    4.3
    5.1 mi / 915 ft gain
    The trails are well maintained and offer good visibility. The trail can be muddy after it rains, and does not have much shade (so bring extra water in the summer).  Dogs are allowed on this trail but must be kept on leash. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife - this trail is frequently used for bir...
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  • Los Gatos, California

    Hike Los Gatos Trail to Jones Trail Loop

    3.8 mi / 511 ft gain
    This trail winds its way along the Los Gatos Creek and ends at the Lexington Reservoir before looping back to the start. It is 3.8 miles and makes for a great way to get exercise and relax in nature. You can hear the creek as you hike, and can even go down to it. There is a lot of green foliage t...
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  • Los Gatos, California

    Lost Mine Trail Run

    Communes, dairy, and gold. These words are not often associated with trail running, but out on Monte Bello Ridge and Black Mountain which rise high above Silicon Valley, you might just hear them uttered.From the parking area in Skyline Open Space we start our run by crossing Skyline Boulevard and...
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