We all need to blow off some steam from time to time.
Our hectic lives can get away from us at the best of times, without even considering how the current state of the world has complicated things even further. But, try not to let the stresses of everyday life get you down.
We happen to live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country, and there are plenty of opportunities to let the healing powers of the outdoors reinvigorate your mind, body and soul.
Here are 4 great Santa Cruz parks you can escape to this weekend, and leave your problems behind...at least for a few hours.
Wilder Ranch State Park
If you’re looking to experience the full diversity of the Central California coast, Wilder Ranch State Park is a fantastic choice. The network of trails takes visitors from grasslands and forests full of coastal redwoods and douglas firs to beautiful and rugged coastlines with hidden beaches and tide pools to be explored.
The park features 34 miles of trails. Among the most popular is the Old Cove Landing Trail - it’s 7.5 miles round trip and boasts incredible wildflowers. The trail itself is packed down regularly as to make it very accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. This makes a great day trip for the whole family.
Wilder Ranch is easily accessible from Highway 1, less than 20 minutes west of Santa Cruz.
UCSC Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Ok, so we cheated a little bit. The Arboretum isn’t a park exactly, but it does offer a great way to escape to nature.
The Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is a living museum set on 135 acres. The grounds are filled with an absolutely stunning array of rare and unique plant species. You’ll find 300 plant families representing countries from all over the world, including several mediterranean countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Arboretum’s dedicated staff and volunteers are committed to conservation and research.
The Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are located on the west side of the UCSC Campus. The campus is located on High Street, accessible via Bay Street from Highway 1.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park holds the distinction of being California’s oldest state park. It is also home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco.
And the park is huge. Inside you’ll find more than 80 miles of trails, great for hiking, biking and even extended backpacking trips - all in the heart of the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. As you wander among the ancient redwoods (some older than the Roman Empire), you’ll likely encounter stunning waterfalls, as well as plenty of the local wildlife.
The most popular access point to the park can be found less than an hour north of Santa Cruz. Take Highway 9 to the small community of Boulder Creek, then turn west along the Big Basin Highway. You’ll be glad you did!
West Cliff Drive
Here we are cheating again. Of course, West Cliff Drive isn’t so much a park at all but a wonderful way to take in the full beauty of the Monterey coastline. It’s definitely worth a look though.
We’d recommend starting at the Santa Cruz Dream Inn and making your way along West Cliff Drive, following the bay. You’ll start at the famed Santa Cruz Wharf and make your way to the popular Natural Bridges State Park. Along the way, you’ll pass by the Steamer Lane surf spot as well as an old brick lighthouse that currently serves as a surfing museum.
Hot tip. If the waves are moving, pause between Auburn and Chico Avenue. Here you may catch a glimpse of the “blowhole”. Check it out and you’ll find out what we mean.
The return route is about 6 miles and you can start at either end. West Cliff Drive can be found right along Santa Cruz’s most iconic stretch of waterfront.
If all of this doesn’t already catch your attention, be sure to contact Lauren Spencer online or call 1.800.226.4717 to learn more about the Santa Cruz area! She’s your local real estate expert and is always happy to help you with all your questions.