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

  • Pacific Grove, California

    Bike at Asilomar State Beach

    At Asilomar State Beach, adventure is accessible in many forms. I had the opportunity to rent a bike from Adventures by the Sea. Rentals start at $25, and while you are not permitted to ride along the boardwalk that leads you to the beach, you may walk your bike through the exquisite sand dunes A...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Exploring Asilomar's Ancient Sand Dunes

    4.0
    Asilomar State Beach covers 107 acres of land. It is home to a delicate ecosystem that has been sustained through the years after it was almost destroyed. The intricate dunes at Asilomar are what have survived after the over-grazing back in the early 1900's that damaged about 480 acres of dunes. ...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Play Volleyball at Asilomar Conference Grounds

    Asilomar translates to “refuge by the sea,” a phrase that accurately depicts the Asilomar Conference Grounds. The area started as a YWCA women’s empowerment camp in 1913 and has since transitioned into a well-preserved state beach. It is located in the beautiful Monterey Peninsula.  If you find y...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Explore the Pidgeon Point Lighthouse

    5.0
    Pidgeon Point Lighthouse is conveniently located just 50 miles south of San Francisco. Constructed in 1872 and standing at 115 feet, it is among the tallest lighthouse in America.Part of the state park system, it is surprisingly secluded. Numerous parking space were available in the lot with hand...
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  • Pescadero, California

    Exploring Big Sur to Pigeon Point

    We started off in Big Sur and took as many pull-off viewpoints as possible between Big Sur and the final destination, Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The weather was foggy in some spots but would open up to reveal the vast Pacific Ocean and sun in others. The weather was mild for us but we're familiar w...
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  • La Honda, California

    Mountain Bike Skyline Ridge Preserve

    4.0
    3.5 mi / 313 ft gain
    There are a bunch of beginner to intermediate mountain biking trails at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve (click here for a trail map).  There are some beginner mountain biking classes that come here to learn. You can find specific trails that match your ability at MTB Project.   There is a Chris...
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  • Pacific Grove, California

    Spanish Bay Trail

    5.0
    2.8 mi / 78 ft gain
    Spanish Bay Trail is an out and back trail that takes you past scenic views located near Monterey, California.
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  • Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, California

    Hike Deer Hollow Farm Trail

    4.0
    2.7 mi / 259 ft gain
    Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve has many beginner to intermediate hiking trails.  Deer Hollow Farm Trail Loop is a hiking trail for beginners, families, or anyone wanting to go on a short hike with nice views of the bay. The trail passes by a farm and deer can often be seen wandering aroun...
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  • Loma Mar, California

    Bike Pescadero Creek County Park

    5.0
    12.5 mi / 1350 ft gain
    Pescadero Creek County Park and the connected Sam McDonald and Memorial Park are located deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains holding a vast network of secluded trails. From biking to backpacking, this area is a perfect place for a day or weekend adventure. This area also has the added bonus having r...
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  • Redwood City, California

    Hike Russian Ridge

    4.5
    4 mi
    Russian Ridge offers a great place to jump on the trail and in the right season, see some of the best wildflowers blooming. On top of that, you get access to amazing views from the ridge. Once you hit your parking space, add a little extra warm up before jumping on the trail to make this 3.7-mil...
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  • Del Monte Forest, California

    Relax at Spanish Bay

    Spanish Bay is a beach with a view point at the southern tip.  You can see waves crashing into rocks and the many different shades of blue.  This is a great spot for anyone exploring 17 Mile Drive, as it is scenic and perfect for picnics.  There is a golf course nearby that offers some of the mos...
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  • La Honda, California

    Brook Trail Loop

    7.63 mi / 1457 ft gain
    The Brook Trail Loop is a beautiful hike, starting off in Sam McDonald County Park and later entering into Pescadero Creek County Park. This adventure can be done in any season, with the trails almost entirely shaded for even the hottest summer days. Starting off from the Heritage Grove trailhea...
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  • Loma Mar, California

    Camp Under the Redwoods at Memorial Park

    With old growth redwoods and a creek swimming area, Memorial Park is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area. Memorial Park is only a few miles east of the town of Pescadero. To get here, you can either approach from Highway 1 and drive up Pescadero Creek Road or take Highway ...
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  • Los Altos, California

    Hike to Black Mountain and Stevens Creek Canyon

    4.0
    6 mi / 950 ft gain
    This hike can be done during any season, but for the creek to be running and for more comfortable temperatures, it is best to go on a cool winter or spring day. Starting at the preserve parking lot, take the Stevens Creek nature trail, allowing you to witness spectacular views of a large, foreste...
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  • Los Altos, California

    Hike the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve Loop

    4.5
    2.9 mi / 600 ft gain
    This hike is best done in the late fall, winter, and spring so that the creek is running and the hills are green. Starting at the preserve parking lot, the first half of the hike is predominantly downhill. At the main trailhead, start in the direction of the Stevens Creek Nature Trail, as told by...
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  • La Honda, California

    Sam McDonald Park Loop

    5.0
    12.19 mi / 2192 ft gain
    The Pescadero Creek Park Complex is a great place to escape for a day or overnight hike in the heart of the Bay Area. You will need to get a permit to stay overnight - these can be attained on a first-come, first-serve basis from the ranger station. Most of the campsites here are also available f...
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