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Big Basin

Boulder Creek
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Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California's oldest State Park, established in 1902. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, the park consists of over 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet. The climate ranges from foggy and damp near the ocean to sunny, warm ridge tops.


The park features family and group camping, tent cabins, backpacking camps, hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails. The park is open year round and reservations are encouraged during the summer.


The park has over 80 miles of trails. Be sure and pick up a map at park headquarters before your hike and take a look at the multimedia kiosk in the Sempervirens Room (next to park headquarters). There you will find great information, photos, and video of some of the most popular trails.


Some trails link Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range. The Skyline to the Sea Trail threads its way through the park along Waddell Creek to the beach and adjacent Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve, a freshwater marsh.


The park has a surprising number of waterfalls and a wide variety of environments from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes. Many animals such as deer, raccoon, coyote, fox, an occasional bobcat, mountain lion, and many bird species--including California quail, egret, heron, hawk, owl, woodpecker, and the endangered marbled murrelet--call Big Basin home. And of course there are always plenty of banana slugs!


Address: 21600 Big Basin Way

Fall Creek State Park

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Fall Creek is the northern area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. One of the park's best kept secrets, it is 2,390 acres in size, and contains about 20 miles of hiking trails. Fall Creek contains about 20 miles of trails. Pick up a trail map at Henry Cowell State Park Visitor Center.

Additional information.

Address: 1400 Felton Empire Road

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

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Henry Cowell features 15 miles of hiking and riding trails through the forest. There is a picnic area next to the San Lorenzo River. The park has a nature center and bookstore. Adjoining the park is Roaring Camp Railroad, offering visitors a chance to journey back in time on an old steam locomotive. The main park area, containing the large, old-growth redwoods, is about 1,750 acres, and the northern area (Fall Creek) is 2,390 acres, with about 20 miles of hiking trails.



Address: 101 North Big Trees Park Road

Lighthouse Field State Park

Santa Cruz
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Lighthouse Field State Park (including Its Beach) was closed to off leash use as of November 15, 2007. The City of Santa Cruz just ended its 30 year lease with the State. The State now manages this land and does not allow for off leash use. The City would like to purchase this property but does not like the 1.4 million dollar price tag. Between 10am and 4pm dogs are only allowed on the field area on leash (no dogs on the beach at all).
For further clarification see the Santa Cruz Parks and Recs Dog page or Friends of Lighthouse Field (FOLF).

Address: 701 West Cliff Drive west of the lighthouse

Manresa Uplands State Park

La Selva Beach,

Manresa Uplands Campground provides dramatic views of the ocean from the bluffs above the beach. This beautiful expanse of sea and sand offers surf fishing, surfing and other beach recreation.


Highway 1
San Andreas Road southwest, for four miles
Right on Sand Dollar Road
Veer left to Manresa Uplands Campground


64 sites with walk-in tent only camping, $25 per night
Restrooms, Showers

The weather varies from cool and foggy to windy to bright and sunny. Layered clothing is advised.

Dogs are allowed on the beach on leash.


Address: 205 Manresa Road 831-761-1795

Mountain Parks Foundation

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Preserving the legacy of our Redwood forests
    Since 1973, Mountain Parks Foundation, a non-governmental, 501(c)(3) charitable not-for-profit organization has been dedicated to supporting programs that enhance the experience of park visitors.
    With your support, these educational programs can continue, providing visitors an understanding of the necessity of preserving these habitats and parks for future generations.
    We invite you to join us in making a difference.  We urge you to help preserve educational and environmental resources of the Mountain Parks through your donations, your time and your expertise.

    Mountain Parks Foundation – In cooperation with California State Parks – enriches each visitor’s experience through wise stewardship of resources to enhance understanding of our natural environment and cultural heritage.
    Join Us!


Address: 525 N. Big Trees Park Road

Natural Bridges State Beach

Santa Cruz
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Named Natural Bridges because of its recognizable, ocean carved natural bridge just off the coast, the park is an excellent site for viewing shore and ocean birds, migrating whales and seals and sea otters playing offshore. Tide pools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea, with low tides revealing sea stars, crabs, sea anemones and other colorful ocean .

Natural Bridges State Beach is world-renowned for its yearly migration of Monarch butterflies. Visitors can see many thousands of Monarchs during the butterflies' peak season, which typically runs mid-October to late January. These migrating butterflies come to the Natural Bridges Monarch grove for protection from rain and wind, for they prefer the warm, moist air within .5 mile of the ocean.

Natural Bridges State Beach encompasses a variety of habitats: Coastal Scrub, which is adorned with native wildflowers in the spring; Salt / Brackish and freshwater wetlands created by Moore creek; Ocean dunes; tide pools; Monarch preserve; and freshwater pond all add to a tremendous diversity of wildlife here throughout the seasons.

Address: 2531 West Cliff Drive

New Brighton State Beach

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New Brighton State Beach is one of the most popular and most visited state beaches in California. This 93-acre park along the beautiful coast of Santa Cruz offers spectacular views of the Monterey Bay. It is famous for its family-oriented campground which sits on the towering bluffs high above the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful, lush vegetation of towering pine trees, Monterey Cypress, oak, eucalyptus trees, and wild berry vines surround campers with a peaceful tranquility. Once the site of a Chinese fishing village, it now offers locals and visitors a haven from the hectic pace of city life.

Hwy 1 to New Brighton/Park Avenue exit off Hwy 1,

Right at bottom of ramp,

Left at 1st stop sign. 


The visitor center is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10-4. See, explore and experience the stories of people, settlers and cultures that are a part of this region’s rich history. The Pacific Migrations Visitor Center explores the many Pacific Rim migrations, both by people and by creatures of the air and sea. For more information, please call (831) 464-5620.

Camping Information &
Reservations 800-444-7275, December through February off reservation: first come first serve only

Camping fees:
-Regular (72 sites, up to 36') $25/day
-Premium (4 sites) $35/day (best ocean views)
-Hookup (6 sites) $35.00/day
-Bicycle sites (4) $3.00/person/day
-Group Site (3 sites) $125.00/day
-Senior (62+) Discount $2.00 off/day
-Disabled Discount 1/2 off/day with state pass

Address: 1500 Park Avenue

Palm State Beach

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Palm State Beach is a popular day use area located in Southern Santa Cruz County. The wide beach is perfect for a long walk or a day in the sun. Fishing and swimming are popular activities at Palm Beach. Picnic tables are available in the day use area. Dogs are allowed on the beach, on leash.


Picnic tables, Barbecues, Restrooms, Outdoor Showers, Food, lodging and supplies are available nearby

Address: End of West Beach Street

Portola Redwoods State Park

La Honda
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     The park is in a rugged, natural basin forested with coast redwoods, Douglas fir and live oak. Eighteen miles of trails crisscross the canyon and several streams, notably Slate Creek, Peters Creek and Pescadero Creek. Trails also connect to trails in adjacent parks. The Sequoia Self-guided Nature Trail and Old Tree Trail introduce visitors to the natural history of the area. The park has one of the tallest redwoods (over 300 feet high) in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

     The Portola Campground is closed from December 1st to May 1st. Also, in severe weather the park might be closed.  Fill your gas tank before driving to the park. Closest gas is 14 miles from the park, in Sky Londa. Closest store is 9 miles from the park in La Honda.

56 Family campsites, 6 backpack sites, 4 group sites. No camping December 1st through March 31st. Reservations required. See General Info, below, for more information.


Address: 9000 Portola State Park Road, #F

Rancho Del Oso State Park

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     The Center occupies a ranch-style house and grounds which were once the home of Hulda Hoover McLean. It now consists of an intimate, protected courtyard surrounded by a main meeting room, exhibit rooms, gift shop, and a large deck overlooking Waddell Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

     Waddell Beach, located across Highway 1 from the park entrance, is known worldwide as one of the best spots for windsurfing. The steady strong northwest winds and good surf provide ideal conditions for this demanding sport. For those interested in birding, botany, intertidal marine life and riparian habitat, the Waddell Beach and the many Rancho del Oso trails offer superb recreation for the amateur or professional naturalist. Regular surfers, boogie boarders, and surf fishermen also find it an ideal spot to pursue their activities.

North from Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 for 17 miles to the Waddell Creek Bridge.

Just before crossing the bridge, turn right at the sign and continue on the dirt road.

Visitor Center: Weekends Noon - 4pm, or by advance appointment to groups

Horse trail camps for reservations call 831-425-1218
Trail camps for reservations call 831-338-8861


Address: 3600 Highway 1

Rio Del Mar Beach

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A wide strip of clean sand and a jetty with nearby shopping and restaurants. Dogs okay on leashes. This beach is good for beginning boogie boarders and small children.

Address: Rio Del Mar Blvd.

Seabright Beach

Santa Cruz
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Located between the Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Harbor, Seabright is a long sandy beach within walking distance of restaurants and a great place for an evening of marshmallow roasting in the fire rings. Lifeguards in the summer, water for rinsing and bathrooms available.

Address: East Cliff Drive & Seabright Avenue

Seacliff State Beach

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     Long stretch of sandy beach great for walks or strolls on the bay. Picnic areas, interpretive center and RV camping. Summer Camping Reservations 800.444.7275.  Access is from various points along East Cliff Dr.

     Looking onto the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Seacliff State Beach was established as a state park in 1931, after the first successful state bond issue in 1930 to support state parks. The avidly used shore walkway connects New Brighton State Beach and Rio del Mar Beach. Veins of extinct marine fossils layer the coastal bluffs.
     Seacliff history includes Ohlone Indian lives and burial grounds, Spanish land grants to the Castro family, redwood timber shipments, Claus Spreckles, King Kamehameha, how surfing came to California, and the USS Palo Alto, the concrete ship in the waters off Seacliff Pier, that has attracted visitors since it was placed here in 1929. One of only three "cement" ships built during World War I, the original owners' plan for the ship and the pier was short-lived. Today the recently refurbished Seacliff fishing pier overlooks the picturesque concrete ship, which provides protected marine habitat.


*Tour the Visitor Center cultural and natural history exhibits, and talk to our knowledgeable docents and interpreters

*Come to Festival of the Cement Ship in June (first Saturday) and the Migration Festival in February (second Saturday)

*Join us for free, docent-led, guided tours of the fossil beds and guided history walks


RV camping only, 26 sites:-$44 premium, $39 inland. Full Hook-up (Incl. 1-Disabled)
Reservations: 800-444-7275

Address: State Park Drive

Sunset State Beach

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     Day Use open daily 6am-sunsetThe historic Van Laanan farm provides the backdrop for this large park at the south end of Santa Cruz County. Surrounded by fertile farmland, Sunset State Beach features a wooded campground, picnic area, group campground, and 200-foot high dunes (the largest in the country) built up in front of coastal bluff. The beach itself stretches down to where it meets the mouth of the Pajaro River, giving three miles of unobstructed and spectacular shoreline.

     Visitors enjoy broad vistas of the Monterey Bay from two main overlooks. During the summer and autumn, it is possible to see large groups of bottle nosed dolphins. The beach features pine trees, mountainous sand dunes, and ocean side picnic spots. Dogs are not allowed on the beach, but are allowed in campsites, on leash at all times.


16 miles south of Santa Cruz
Hwy 1, exit on San Andreas Road
Follow signs south.


Camping, Year round campground and picnic area on the beach, Reservations 800.444.7275

91 camping sites, $25.00 per night, 1 bicycle site, $3/person/night; maximum 8 people, 1 group site, $224/night.

Picnic tables


Address: 201 Sunset Beach Road

That's My Park

(831) 429-1840
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Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is dedicated to promoting appreciation and stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of our local state parks by facilitating and supporting educational programs and exhibits.


Friends'--a non-profit park partner--strives to ensure that the history, traditions and natural beauty of Santa Cruz County State Parks are enjoyed today and by future generations. Each year more than 327,601 visitors--including thousands of school children--participate in over 4,328 free educational programs funded by Friends.


As state park budgets continue to be slashed and more people are enjoying the parks, Friends work becomes increasingly urgent as we are relied upon to fund the essential educational programs and stewardship initiates within our local state parks.


Through effective leadership by the Friends board of directors and the hard work of staff, Friends has grown to be the second largest of 84 similar non-profit partners in California. The educational programs in Santa Cruz County State Parks, funded by Friends, serve as a model for other park districts throughout the state, have won numerous state and national awards and are vital to the future of our parks.


The Forest of Nisene Marks

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(Site Photos) ParkNisene.jpgThe Forest of Nisene Marks The park offers 10,000 acres of rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet. The site of logging operations until the 1920s, visitors can still find evidence of logging operations, mill sites and trestles in the park. The land was purchased by the Marks family in the 1950s, and was donated to the state in 1963. There are 30 miles of trails nestled in this second growth forest, which are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, or a leisurely stroll. Horses are allowed on a portion of the fire road and some trails. A number of picnic areas are available with charcoal grills. Dogs are allowed on fire roads only, and must be on leash.

Primitive trail camping available, reservations required. See General Info, below, for camping information details.

The weather can vary from cool to hot within a few hours. Layered clothing is advised.

Pit toilets
Picnic areas, Food, lodging, and supplies nearby

Dogs are allowed on leash on the fire road up to the Porter Picnic area.

More Camping Information Primitive trail camping available--6 campsites, 6 mile intermediate hike one way, 6 people per site. $5 per person, per night. Reservations required. Call 831-763-7073 to reserve. NOTE: Water is not available. You must bring your own water.

JUVENILES (those under 18 years of age), not camping with a parent or legal guardian must have WRITTEN permission to camp in the park. Permission letters must include the name of the park, the name of the juvenile, the dates they may stay and the name, address, phone number and signature of the person's parent or legal guardian. The parent must be reachable at all times during the juvenile's visit. Children 14 years of age and under may not camp without a parent present during the stay.


Address: Aptos Creek Rd & Soquel

Wilder Ranch State Park

Santa Cruz
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(Site Photos) WilderRanchWagonride.jpgThe park covers approximately 7,000 acres, with 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails winding through coastal terraces and valleys. You can explore the history of early ranchers and farmers along the Central Coast through tours and living history demonstrations. The grounds include Victorian homes, barns, shops, gardens, and a historic adobe. Major wetlands restoration projects have attracted some of the original flora and fauna back to the area. Dogs are not allowed at Wilder Ranch.


* Almost 7,000 acres of coastal landscapes
* 5.0 miles of coastline
* More than 35 miles of trails for hikers, bicyclists & equestrians
* 20,580 people attended educational programs in 2005
* Almost 3,000 local school children served in 2005
* Home to at least 22 rare and sensitive species

Address: 1401 Old Coast Road

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