walks in santa cruz

7 of the Best Walks in Santa Cruz

The walks in Santa Cruz are ridiculously scenic. Californians are known for loving a good jaunt, but the people of this lovely city take it to another level. And it’s not hard to see why. Easy walks offer up the most incredible views, ones that you’d only get after miles of hiking up a mountain in other places. Make the most of this beautiful landscape – here are seven of the best walks in Santa Cruz.

Walks in Santa Cruz

1. West Cliff Drive

Length: 4 miles

This is an absolutely gorgeous, peaceful hike. It’s nice and easy, but you’re treated to incredible views along the way without having to work too hard for it. It’s a beautiful choice for a sunset walk, with mesmerising views over the Pacific Ocean. But if you are visiting for sunset then bear in mind that there are no street lights, so it can get dark. However, the walk is pathed and smooth, so it won’t be a problem. Wildlife spotting is a treat here – keep an eye out for sea otters, seals, whales, pelicans, dolphins, and more.

Walks in Santa Cruz

2. Old Landing Cove Trail

Length: 2.4 miles

For a nice, easy stroll along the coast, this is the perfect little walk. Spanning just under 2-and-a-half miles, this refreshing trail is gentle and smooth, with a wide path that’s perfectly suitable for wheelchairs, buggies, and other wheeled equipment. Stunning coastal views with minimal effort sounds great to us. It’s also a great spot for wildlife watching – keep an eye out for gulls, geese, pelicans, and sea lions. If you time it right, you might even spot passing whales – December through April is peak whale migration season.

Walks in Santa Cruz

3. Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field Loop

Length: 4.8 miles

Natural Bridges State Park is a beautiful place to explore, with idyllic beaches and magical tide pools. Your dog will love discovering this exciting place, but remember to keep them on a lead. There are lots of wildlife spotting opportunities, particularly butterflies. This is one of the largest butterfly sites in the country, which is particularly ethereal when the native wildflowers come out to play, too. This is a fairly easy walk, but there is quite an incline at the beginning of the route which may be too steep for wheelchairs or strollers. But the three miles along the West Cliff Multi-Purpose Cycleway to Lighthouse Field State Beach is mostly gentle, except for a downhill section.

4. Fern Trail, Spring Trail, and Lookout Trail Loop

Length: 4.6 miles

This is a really beautiful walk, with fantastic views of redwood trees and the sweeping city skyline. It’s also a historical spot, with a stone labyrinth, an old clubhouse, and an interesting rock garden. There’s plenty of shade, so it’s a good choice for the warmer months. Please bear in mind that dogs are not permitted on the Lookout Trail, but you can turn north after the Fern Trail and connect onto the Spring Trail.

5. Big Rock Hole, Redwood Grove, and Ox Trail Loop

Length: 4.4 miles

A series of trails make up this loop, so it’s advised that you download the map beforehand to avoid losing signal and getting lost. And unfortunately, you will have to leave the dogs at home for this one. It might seem like a bit more effort, but this is one of the best walks in Santa Cruz. It’s a moderately challenging route with the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, featuring a beautiful swimming pool that is just perfect on those hot days. There are also several river crossings, so you might want to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, but the river scenery makes for an adventure.

Walks in Santa Cruz

6. Enchanted Loop Trail

Length: 5 miles

This loop is considered a moderately challenging route at just over 5 miles. There is a tough, steep section at the start of the route, but the beautiful views make it all worth it. If you’d prefer to do the walk without such a sharp elevation gain, you might find that taking the loop counter-clockwise is more gradual. Either way, you do get amazing views throughout, the picture of a classic Californian landscape – from the beach, to the hills, to the forest. It’s quite an exposed route so it’s advised that you wear a hat, and on windy days the coastal breeze will keep you cool.

7. Moran Lake Trail to Pleasure Point

Length: 2.6 miles

This is a seriously gorgeous walk. It’s nice and short, but still one of the best walks in Santa Cruz. The path is smooth and easy to follow – perfectly suitable for strollers or wheelchair users. It’s a wonderful choice for a morning or sunset walk, when the ocean views are particularly dazzling. You’re welcome to bring your pup with you to enjoy this walk, just be sure to keep them on their lead.

Aleyna Yilmaz

Aleyna loves learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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