Big Basin State Park

Big Basin 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. 

The park has over 80 miles of hiking/biking trails. Some of these 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, a wide variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes, many animals (deer, raccoons, an occasional bobcat) and lots of bird life-- including Stellerís jays, egrets, herons and California woodpeckers. 

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

This park features 15 miles of hiking and riding trails through a forest that looks much the same as it did 200 years ago. Zayante Indians once lived in the area, where they found shelter, water and game. The park is the home of the Redwood Grove, with a self-guided nature path, and Douglas fir, madrone, oak and the most unusual feature of the park, a stand of Ponderosa pine. 

The main park area, containing the large, old-growth redwoods, is about 1,750 acres, and he northern area (Fall Creek) is 2,390 acres, with about 20 miles of hiking trails. The tallest tree in the park is about 285 feet tall, and about 16 feet wide. The oldest trees in the park are about 1400 to 1800 years old. 

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

The park offers 10,000 acres of rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet. Once 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 donated to the state by the Marks family in 1963. 

With over 30 miles of trails, hiking, jogging and biking are some of the activities to be enjoyed here. 

Wilder Ranch State Park 

The park has 4,505 acres, with 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian rails winding through coastal terraces and valleys. Several restored buildings once belonging to the Wilder family are preserved. The park has tours and living history demonstrations to help visitors explore the history of early ranchers and farmers along the Central Coast. The site was originally the main rancho supplying Santa Cruz Mission. It later became a successful and innovative dairy ranch. Surrounding grounds include Victorian homes, gardens, and historic adobe.

The restoration of Wilder Ranch has been extremely successful. Since 1994, the agricultural fields have been returned to wetland and riparian habitats with their native tree, shrub and plant species. Wetland birds, and hawks nest in habitat that formerly was farmland. Red-legged frogs and other wetland animals have moved into the area. 

Soquel Demonstration State Forest 

Wow! 18 miles of pure glory. What a ride. Starting from the Ridge trail, there is a long singletrack that leads down to a steep technical trail that includes many obstacles along the way to keep you entertained. You definitely won't want to miss this downhill on your next visit to Santa Cruz.

Fort Ord State Park

The former Ford Ord Army base is now home to various forms of redevelopment. The California State Park system has designated land for use for a state park but in the meantime there is still an enormous amount of trails and fire roads available for every skill level. Don't get lost though, there is still areas of Fort Ord that are off limits as live ordinance is still being cleaned up!