The 10 best trails in the Santa Cruz mountains to see all types of Redwoods, in order of difficulty from easy to strenuous.
5. Cathedral Redwoods, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Length: 4 miles out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Travel some of the trails less taken along the San Lorenzo River to a beautiful fairy circle of second-growth redwoods that look like nature's cathedral with an optional trip to Cable Car Beach. Since first advocating for the park's preservation in 1900, Sempervirens Fund has protected three more properties in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park area including redwood forests and magical fairy rings like these.
Trails: From behind the Visitors Center take Pipeline Road as it meanders along the San Lorenzo River. After you cross the river, take Rincon Fire Road. When you reach the three-way trail junction, take Big Rock Hole Trail on the right to reach Cathedral Grove. Retrace your steps to return or turn onto River Trail from Rincon Fire Road to visit Cable Car Beach. Then, continue on River Trail back to the Visitor’s Center. Map
More Info: Read more about what really makes redwood fairy rings so magical.
photo by Yuval Helfman
10. Peters Creek Loop, Portola Redwoods State Park
Length: 11.9 mile out and back
What You’ll See/Highlights: Visit what’s been called one of the most rewarding trails in the Bay Area under the lavish canopies of second-growth redwoods and tanoaks to reach a remote and ancient grove of old-growth redwoods called Peters Grove. In the future, Peter's Creek Grove may become more accessible thanks to new lands Sempervirens Fund has protected. Until then, challenging climbs in and out–which likely protected these ancient trees from logging over a century ago–are the only way to experience what some have found to be the most awe-inspiring grove in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Trails: Take Old Tree Trail to Slate Creek Trail, turn left on Bear Creek Trail, loop around the grove, and backtrack to return. Map
More Info: Read about how to make Peters Creek Grove a backpacking trip.
photo by Wayne Hsieh
While the 2020 CZU fire closed some of our favorite parks and left an enormous amount of destruction and loss in its wake across the region, frequent low intensity fires have been a natural part of our ecosystem and many native plants have adapted with it. You can learn more about rare plants called “fire followers” and find trails in their habitats in the Santa Cruz mountains in our Wildflowers After Wildfire Guide or check out more activities in the Santa Cruz mountains below.