NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Santa Cruz Mountains Loop- Things To Do

State Parks & Beaches

This trip offers the traveler a nice change of pace. You start in the mountains, with hiking opportunities in Castle Rock State Park. Big Basin Redwoods State Park also offers that, but is also a nice family destination with tent-cabin rentals if you have a large group or are camping with friends. Nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has some sunny campsites and the added family attraction of the Roaring Camp Railway. The latter two both have an informative Visitor Center with educational opportunities for the family as well. Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos probably won't be a hit so we'd take a pass. When you leave the mountains and hit Santa Cruz and Hwy. 1 the topography changes and you've got access to numerous state beaches, some with camping, and all of the benefits of a drive along a pretty stretch of coast.


Castle Rock is the place for you, with no roads to intrude and no facilities to attract casual visitors. Consider the 38 mile Skyline-to-the Sea Trail or some of its parts. A back-country permit is required and they are limited in number to assure a proper experience. Trail maps and information is best obtained at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.


All of the mountain parks cater to the hiker, as few roads exist within park boundaries. Buy a topo map before you leave, or pick up a trail map at Big Basin Redwoods.

Boating/ Fishing

Limited opportunities exist for these pursuits. Loch Lomond Reservoir is nearby with a warm water fishery with some rainbow trout, but nothing more powerful than an electric motor is allowed. Small boat rentals are also available. The access road is winding and steep so you need to want to go there. There's a modest picnic area overlooking the marina, but its nothing to make a special trip for. Limited fishing also exists for steelhead in San Lorenzo Creek near Henry Cowell Redwoods.


The villages of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond and Felton were once logging towns and have some interesting stores. Boulder Creek is the best choice for those looking for something on the smaller and charming side. Felton has it all, with commonly known chain stores competing with the local ones.


Once to the coast, two lighthouses with hostels are available for a visit. Heading north, Pigeon Point comes first, followed by Pt. Montara.


Our favorite spot in this area is Swanson's Berry Farm and we never fail to stop. Their scones are the best around. They have a u-pick strawberry patch and sell a variety of jams and jellies with berries in the mix. We highly recommend the Strawberry- Rhubarb jam. With the opportunity to buy some great product and support a family farm you can't go wrong. Marin County folks can replenish the jam supply at the San Rafael Farmer's Market on Sundays at the Marin Civic Center.

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