Get Out of Town!
There's more to Discover in Santa Cruz
June, 2021 - Issue #200

What do you know about Santa Cruz? If you answer Boardwalk, "The Lost Boys," and banana slugs, then keep reading.
My knowledge was limited too, but there's so much more to this beachside city that anchors the north side of Monterey Bay than its seaside promenade with roller coaster, a campy '80s vampire movie starring Kiefer and the Coreys, and a University of California campus with its quirky mascot.
Mountain biking. Redwood forest hiking. Legendary surf breaks. Mellow sunset walks. We packed in as much as we could - except surfing - on a recent visit, but left feeling like we'd barely tapped its potential.
Although we entered town as newbies, we did get one thing right: lodging. The recently-renovated upstairs one-bedroom apartment we found on VRBO in an East Santa Cruz triplex put us within walking distance to several beaches and a short drive from our planned outings. Plus, the wrap-around dining room window gave us a view of Monterey Bay as we sipped our morning coffee and listened to the birds chirping to start the day.
Santa Cruz is home to the eponymous mountain bike brand, so naturally it's rich with trails. We set out for Wilder Ranch State Park north of town. Stretched across 7,000 acres, the former dairy encompasses sandy beaches and redwood forests on Ben Lomond Mountain. Beginning on the Ohlone Bluff Trail, our plan was to ride a loop that circumnavigated the park.
The trail wound through cultivated fields and followed the contours of the coast, offering views of pocket beaches and rocky headlands below. In love with the views, and the easy pedaling, we abandoned our intended route and continued exploring the coast. We stopped periodically to watch surfers ride long, slow-rolling barrels and get eye to eye with seagulls cruising the tops of the bluffs.
In addition to stunning beaches, Santa Cruz also boasts lush redwood forests. Last year's wildfires took a heavy toll in the Big Basin area, but Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park was largely unaffected. The park is close to town but feels like a world away. We started on the popular Redwood Grove Loop Trail, and after branching off on steeper trails to go deeper in the park, we left most other visitors behind. After winding our way among the cool and shady trees, we emerged on the bank of the San Lorenzo River and soaked in the sun while enjoying a trailside snack.
"IN LOVE with the views, and the easy pedaling, we abandoned our intended route and continued exploring the coast."
We spent our late afternoons in Santa Cruz chasing sunsets. And while the walk along West Cliff Drive above the famed Steamers Lane surf break is certainly iconic, my favorite sunset of the trip had to be the one viewed from the Crow's Nest at the mouth of Santa Cruz Harbor.
After a full day of wandering, we managed to snag a table on the restaurant's rooftop patio during happy hour. As the orange
glow of sunset slowly faded behind Lighthouse Point, we lingered over drinks and a series of appetizers. The nachos were solid, but the smoked salmon lived up to the waiter's hype.
The following morning was our last, but we made the most of it. We were up early, riding south along East Cliff Drive in search of breakfast. We made a loop through picturesque Capitola Village and ended up at The Point Market, not far from our apartment. This unassuming neighborhood store and cafe earns well-deserved Yelp reviews for its amazing breakfast burritos and surprisingly-good coffee.
It was a great find, and one more reminder of how much more of Santa Cruz is waiting to be discovered.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic.
Beyond the Boardwalk
Condo-Style Rental
Wilder Ranch State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
The Crow's Nest
The Point Market
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