Hikes near Santa Cruz
Central Coast

15 Amazing Redwood Hikes Near Santa Cruz

The Central Coast is home to some of the most epic redwood hikes you can take on in California. It’s no surprise that the Coastal Redwoods are a popular getaway destination for locals and visitors alike, especially in the summer.

If you’re wondering which redwood trails are worth adding to your bucket list, we share 15 of our favorite redwood hikes near Santa Cruz that will simply leave you in awe!

This guide covers lots of tips including where the hikes are located, what you can expect, and tips for each location that you should know before heading out there.


Easy Redwood Hikes:

1. Redwood Grove Loop Trail

Giant redwood tree along the Redwood Grove Loop Trail

If it’s your first time visiting Santa Cruz, the Redwood Grove Loop Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a great starting point! From the visitor parking area, you can head on a 0.8-mile-long loop that leads through a 40-acre grove with some of the tallest and oldest standing redwood trees in California. This trail is short and flat making it a great option for families with little kids.

The Redwood Grove Loop Trail is home to a very special old-growth forest with redwood trees that were preserved in the 1800s instead of being logged. Some of the redwoods within this grove are over 300 feet tall and 2000 years old!

Did you know that only 5% of the old-growth forests remain in California? Most of the original redwood trees were logged in the 1800s during the Gold Rush times.

One of the largest trees within the Redwood Grove Loop Trail is called The Giant with a remarkable 270-foot height and 17-foot width. The Freemont Tree is an interesting hollowed-out tree where visitors can see the inside of its trunk.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 0.8-mile long loop
  • Elevation Gain: flat
  • Park: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Redwood Grove Loop Trail

2. Old Growth Loop

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a beautiful redwood park situated a short drive East of Santa Cruz. The Old Growth Loop is an enchanting trail that starts by The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park Entrance Station and goes in a short loop while passing several interesting attractions.

Along the Old Growth Loop, you can stop and observe views from Waggoner Overlook, marvel at giant redwood trees, and enjoy a relaxing picnic by the river at the Pourroy Picnic Area.

Along this trail, you can see new redwoods growing out of old tree trunks

On the west part of the Old Growth Loop Trail, you can visit Marcel’s Forest, the largest and best preserved old-growth grove within this State Park. Another notable attraction of this trail is The Advocate Tree, a giant fallen redwood that used to be 250 feet tall, 45 feet wide, and is estimated to be over 1000 years old.

Trail Summary:


3. Sequoia Nature Trail

Portola Redwoods State Park is located an hour north of Santa Cruz and is one of the lesser-known redwood parks on the Central Coast, but this area offers incredible hiking trails nonetheless! With a dense forest and an average of 50 inches of rainfall per year, the Portola Redwoods State Park is a great place to escape the summer heat.

For first-time visitors, we recommend starting with the Sequoia Nature Trail. This is a popular day hike that leads to several redwood groves, a seasonal bridge, and provides access to the meandering Pescadero Creek.

The fallen Shell Tree

In the summer months, you can take the bridge across the creek and continue the hike to Shell Tree. The Shell Tree is a giant redwood tree that was over 2000 years old but unfortunately burned in a camping fire in 1989.

Trail Summary:


4. Iverson Trail To Tiptoe Falls

Tiptoe Falls

Iverson Trail is a wonderful day hike that leads to Tiptoe Falls, a small year-round waterfall hidden in the forest at Portola Redwoods State Park.

Along this 1.25-mile-long trail, you will pass several larger redwood clusters that look very towering. But the main attraction of this trail is Tiptoe Falls which flows down the lush Pescadero Creek.

Banana-Slug-Redwoods
Banana slug

Tiptoe Falls is pretty small compared to other waterfalls on the Central Coast, but it’s a great place to come and enjoy a leisurely afternoon stroll next to the cool fern-covered creek. Near the waterfall base, you might spot salamanders or the bright yellow banana slugs that can be found in the redwood forests near Santa Cruz.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.25-miles
  • Elevation Gain: around 300 feet
  • Park: Portola Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Iverson Trail

5. Old Tree Trail

The Old Tree Trail is one of the easiest and shortest hikes within the Portola Redwoods State Park that is fairly flat and only 1 mile long out and back.

The Old Tree Trail travels along a pathway in a forest and ends at a massive redwood tree that is more than 280 feet tall and 1200 years old. Along the trail, you can read many informative signs to learn more about these ancient giants.

California coastal redwoods are some of the tallest living organisms in the world! Some redwood trees are more than 360 feet tall and 2000 years old – now that’s impressive!

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1 mile long out and back
  • Elevation Gain: around 300 feet
  • Park: Portola Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Old Tree Trail
Read More: Visiting Portola Redwoods State Park On The Central Coast

6. Redwoods Observation Deck

Henry Cowell Redwoods Observation Deck

Redwoods Observation Deck is the highest point at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. This destination has a viewing platform overlooking Monterey Bay and the surrounding mountain peaks.

The Observation Deck is located near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground and can be easily reached via a mile-long trail. This viewing area is situated 805 feet above sea level within a unique sandhills plant community that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!

Trail Summary:


Moderate Redwood Hikes:

7. Aptos Rancho Trail

Aptos Rancho Trail is one of the best trails within The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, especially if you’re looking for a redwood hike near Santa Cruz that allows dogs. This easy and mostly flat trail is also a great option for families with kids.

You can start the Aptos Rancho Trail in Aptos town or by the park entrance station and take this serene path to George’s Picnic Area. If you do the full length of the trek, it comes out to be around 4 miles total.

The Aptos Rancho Trail follows Aptos Creek with many options to head down to the riverfront. You will also pass several large redwood groves.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 4 miles long out and back
  • Elevation Gain: around 400 feet
  • Park: The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
  • Google Map Location: Aptos Rancho Trail

8. Sequoia Trail

Note: Big Basin is a redwood park that I was lucky to experience before the park’s closure in 2020 due to wildlife. Now the park is slowly opening to visitors so I wanted to mention a few of my favorite trails in this post. Before heading out there be sure to check the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Website to see up-to-date information on what is currently closed and what trails are open!


The Sequoia Trail is a very popular trek to do at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park near the Central Coast. The Sequoia Trail is around 4 miles long if you choose to do the entire loop.

This loop travels through a dense redwood forest so if you want to see giant redwood groves, this is a great trail to have on your list!

Sempervirens Falls

The main attraction of the Sequoia Trail is the 17 feet tall Sempervirens Falls located about 1.8 miles into the hike. You can best see this waterfall from a rustic wooden platform built for its visitors.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 4-mile-long loop
  • Elevation Gain: around 600 feet
  • Park: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Sequoia Trail
Read More: 5 Amazing Day Hikes At Big Basin Redwoods State Park

9. Lime Kiln Trail In Fall Creek Unit

The Lime Kiln Trail is one of the most popular day hikes near Santa Cruz that offers amazing views and a look into this region’s history.

The Fall Creek to Lime Kilns Trail is just over 3 miles long and passes creeks, wooden bridges, giant redwood groves, and remnants of an old lime processing site. This trail is located within the Fall Creek Unit part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton.

Old Lime Kiln Ruins

The unique part that sets this trail apart from other redwood hikes are the ruins that you can visit here. These ruins mark the location of historic lime kilns, a barrel mill, and other remains of an old industrial complex that operated in this forest between 1874-1919.

Trail Summary:

Read More: How To Hike The Lime Kiln Trail In Fall Creek Unit, Felton

10. Cathedral Redwoods

The 4-mile-long trail to Cathedral Redwoods is one of the least traveled trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park that provides serene scenery and a break from the crowds.

Most of this trail follows a meandering river surrounded by ancient redwoods that feels very calming and peaceful. On the way to Cathedral Grove, you can stop by Cable Car Beach where you can easily access the riverfront to cool down in the summer.

Cathedral Redwoods

Once you reach Cathedral Grove, be sure to look up! The redwoods in this grove are younger than their ancestors and have grown in a loop that looks like a perfect circle when looking upwards.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 4 miles long out and back
  • Elevation Gain: around 500 feet
  • Park: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Cathedral Redwoods
Read More: 9 Top Things To Do At Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

11. Loma Prieta Grade Loop

The Loma Prieta Grade Loop is 1.8 miles long and travels to several historic sites within The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. A few notable attractions along this loop include the Porter House Site, Loma Prieta Mill Site, and Margaret’s Bridge.

The Porter House Site was the location of an old residential area where Warren Porter, the secretary of the Loma Prieta Lumber Company used to live with his wife. Loma Prieta Lumber Company operated in this forest from 1880 to the 1920s while logging most of the original old-growth redwood trees.

Loma Prieta Mill Site

The next major stop along the Loma Prieta Grade Loop is the Loma Prieta Mill Site. Once this dense redwood forest was home to a logging camp, sawmill, railroad station, hotel, store, and many other buildings. Now what remains of the Loma Prieta Mill Site is overgrown with bushes and trees as nature claims back the land.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.8-mile-long loop
  • Elevation Gain: around 300 feet
  • Park: The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
  • Google Map Location: Porter Family Picnic Area

Difficult Redwood Hikes:

12. Historic Loop Trail

Historic-Loop-Trail-The-Forest-of-Nisene-Marks

The Historic Loop Trail is located deep within The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and is lesser known than other redwood hikes in the Santa Cruz region. This hidden gem provides amazing scenery, a bit of solitude, and stunning views of Maple Falls.

To reach the waterfall you will need to cross Bridge Creek several times, climb across giant rocks, and scramble up river canyon cliffs with exposed tree roots. This portion of the trail may not be doable in the winter months as heavy rains can make these creek crossings impossible or even dangerous.

After visiting Maple Falls, you can follow the narrow path along the Bridge Creek Trail back to the parking lot. This section feels very serene and relaxing with the creek rushing next to the trail.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 7.5 mile long loop
  • Elevation Gain: around 600 feet
  • Park: The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
  • Google Map Location: Porter Family Picnic Area
Read More: Historic Loop Trail At The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

13. Berry Creek Falls

Berry Creek waterfall

Berry Creek Falls is a beautiful but lengthy day hike at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. If you plan to do this trail, note that it’s not overly difficult but it is very long!

The Berry Creek Falls Trail leads to a cascading 65 feet tall waterfall. To reach the Berry Creek waterfall you can opt to take a loop or an out-and-back trail.

The Berry Creek Falls Trail is very scenic and passes through a mossy redwood forest overgrown with ferns and lush trees. You’ll also see a few scenic wooden bridges, giant redwood trees, opal creeks, and end the hike at the waterfall.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 11 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: around 2200 feet
  • Park: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Berry Creek Falls Loop Trail

14. Aptos Creek Fire Road

Aptos Fire Creek Road is the main road that travels through The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. This is also one of the busiest routes in the park used by bikers, hikers, trail runners, people with strollers, and dogs.

The Aptos Fire Creek Road is drivable only for a small portion up to the Porter Family Picnic Area. Trail runners and hikers can keep going on this road for a total of 13 miles each way. Most people, however, only end up doing small portions of this route.

This is a great option if you’re looking for a place to go long-distance running. If you plan to run or walk a portion of the Aptos Fire Creek Road, note that there will be cars passing you for the first 3 miles.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park Near Santa Cruz

15. Skyline To The Sea Trail

The Skyline to the Sea Trail is one of the most incredible redwood hikes near Santa Cruz. This trail passes through the entire Big Basin Redwoods State Park offering beautiful views of coastal redwoods that get better and better the more distance you cover.

The full trail is 30 miles long and it took us two days to finish the entire distance. If you don’t want to hike the full 30 miles, you can break up portions of the Skyline to the Sea Trail as day hikes.

The hike starts at Saratoga Gap by Castle Rock State Park and mostly goes downhill from there. We hiked from Saratoga Gap to Big Basin State Park Headquarters in one day and then from Big Basin State Park Headquarters to Waddell Beach on the second day.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 30 miles one way
  • Elevation Gain: around 2300 feet
  • Park: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Google Map Location: Saratoga Gap Parking
Read More: The Complete Guide To Hiking The Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail

Where To Stay Near Santa Cruz

If you’re planning a trip to the Central Coast redwoods and are looking for places to stay in the area, these hotels around Santa Cruz will ensure you have a great time:

Beach Street Inn and Suites

Places-to-stay-in-Santa-Cruz-Beach-Street-Inn-and-Suites
Photo by Beach Street Inn and Suites

Beach Street Inn and Suites is considered to be one of the best hotels in Santa Cruz thanks to its location overlooking the beach. The rooms at this hotel come with ocean or pool views and kitchen basics like a microwave, and a fridge. Complimentary coffee and cocoa bar are offered in the lobby to start your day off right!

You’re sure to fall in love with the beach-style décor and the outdoor area that features a heated pool, hot tub, and fire pit. All in all, Beach Street Inn and Suites is a wonderful place to stay on a vacation to the Central Coast!


Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Dream-Inn-Santa-Cruz
Photo by Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Retro and beach vibes await you at the Dream Inn Santa Cruz, a surf-inspired hotel on the Santa Cruz shoreline. This amazing four-star hotel is filled with stylish, modern décor located just steps from the beach.

Guests at the Dream Inn are treated to Keurig coffee machines, mini-fridges, bathrobes, and private balconies or patios in the rooms. On top of that, you can enjoy amazing amenities including a beachfront swimming pool, hot tub, and the onsite Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge.


Fern River Resort

Fern-River-Resort-California

The Fern River Resort is one of our favorite places to stay near Santa Cruz. This resort is nestled in a wooded property off Highway 9 in Felton and welcomes guests seeking a quiet escape in the midst of towering redwood trees.

The hotel is situated at the edge of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offering easy access to many of its hiking trails. The aesthetic of the resort is charming with natural colors that blend well with the redwoods.

Read More: Staying At The Fern River Resort In Felton

Related Posts

The beautiful redwood State Parks near Santa Cruz offer no shortage of stunning hiking trails and natural attractions. We hope this guide has helped you find a few new trails to add to your hiking bucket list!

Looking for more things to do on the Central Coast? Check out these posts next:


Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!

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