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

  • San Jose, California

    Explore Santa Teresa County Park

    4.5
    8.3 mi / 2053 ft gain
    The Santa Teresa County Park loop is perfect for wildlife viewing! Be ready to see deer, coyote, hawks, turkeys, pigs and cows. The trail is rated as moderate - be cautious with mud if you are visiting the park after a rain shower. Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be kept on leash.  There i...
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  • La Honda, California

    Portola Redwoods State Park Loop

    4.8
    7.64 mi / 1460 ft gain
    Like redwood hikes? We do too, they're always very scenic and take you away from the hustle and bustle of the bay area. Not to mention, they also stay cool during the summer months. If you want a hike in the middle of the peninsula, this is a great bet. When starting this hike, head out from hea...
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  • Saratoga, California

    Hike the Seven Springs Trail Loop

    2.8 mi / 500 ft gain
    The Seven Springs loop is only one great option of several in the preserve. Starting from the Prospect Rd parking lot the loop is 2.8 miles of rolling hills in and out of the shade. Most of the trail is at least 2 person width so easy to walk with a friend or furry companion. There have been larg...
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  • Pescadero, United States

    Relax at Costanoa Lodge

    3.0
    Looking for a quick escape from the city, but sleeping on the ground isn’t really your thing? Look no further than Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero, an upscale "glamping" experience just an hour south of San Francisco with tons of hiking options. This is a really fun option for anyone who enjoys being...
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  • Marina, California

    Surf, Run, or Catch a Sunset at Marina State Beach

    From the moment you turn into the parking lot, you know Marina State Beach is special. Grab a parking spot in the large lot and then run down the dunes and onto the shoreline! The beach feels spacious on this section of the shore and gives plenty of room to run around or to put down a blanket to ...
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  • La Honda, California

    Hike Peters Creek and Long Ridge

    4.0
    5.7 mi
    From the parking lot, take the connector trail towards the Peters Creek Trail for 0.4 miles. As you descend into a small valley, notice the sound of running water that appears. When you reach the first trail intersection, turn left on the Peters Creek trail. This will give you your first encounte...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Camp at Butano State Park

    Butano State Park definitely flies under the radar. But for those who love quick escapes, small crowds, fun hikes, and beautiful redwoods, it's a favorite. The park features miles of hiking trails, 21 drive-in campsites and 18 walk-in campsites. Restrooms with running water are provided. Drinking...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Año Nuevo and Goat Trail Loop

    4.0
    3.76 mi / 761 ft gain
    This steep and winding trail takes you to the top of a ridge where you can see the Pacific coastline and the redwoods piercing through the forest canopy. To do this trail connect the Ano Nuevo Trail, Olmo Fire Road, Goat Trail and the Six Bridges Trail. If you don't have all day to do the Canyon ...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Hike the Canyon Rim Route in Butano State Park

    5.0
    11.7 mi
    Located deep within the Santa Cruz Mountains, Butano State Park boasts a large redwood canyon with many miles of hiking trails as well as campsites. This state park is one of the quietest and least visited parks on the peninsula making a perfect place to escape the hustle of the Bay Area Butano S...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Hike the Little Butano Creek Trail

    1.5 mi
    This short hike follows Little Butano Creek through a lush redwood forest. The trail crosses the creek multiple times as you walk over redwood pine needles and through pockets of ferns. Dogs can join on this trail, but must be on leash.
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  • Marina, California

    Explore Fort Ord Dunes State Park

    5.0
    One of the best parts of Monterey is the beaches – but their popularity is also their weakness, so if you want seclusion head to the lesser-known Fort Ord Dunes for solitude and beautiful views of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Coast. Historically, this location was chosen as the location for Fort ...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Visit the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary

    1 mi
    Thousands of monarchs can be found here October through February. It's a small park with a path through the center. Park near the Monarch Grove hotel at the sign that says "Caution: Butterflies present", and cross the street to walk down the short path (pink houses will be on your right) and to t...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Explore Lovers Point

    5.0
    LOVERS POINT PARK AND BEACH:According to local legend, this park was originally called "Lovers of Jesus Point," back in the era when Pacific Grove was a Methodist retreat camp. Since the late 1800s, the beach at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove has been a popular spot for boating and swimming, and o...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Paddle Lover's Point

    Lover's Point is great place to SUP or kayak. There are tons of jellyfish in the water (so be careful). This beach is also popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are rocks surround a small sandy beach and a place to rent kayaks and sups on the beach. There is a small parking lot as well a...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Relax at Lover's Point Beach

    4.8
    Getting there: Drive to the bottom of Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove, California. You will reach a small parking lot. Unfortunately, the parking here is limited. On the bright side, this means the crowds never get too big! The ocean has open swells for surfers, diverse marine-life for snor...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Catch Sunset on Asilomar State Beach

    Asilomar, or “refuge by the sea” definitely lives up to its name. The beach is expansive and less-populated than other nearby destinations. With large sandbars and rocky outcroppings, it is a great place to enjoy sunset.  This beach is also known for its premium surf, so expect a show from the lo...
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