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Atkinson Bluff Trail

Año Nuevo State Park

A seaside-to-sand dunes journey in this ocean-to-ridgeline treasure

Length

2.9 miles

Rated

Easy*

Trail Type

Loop

Elevation Gain

36 feet

With a mix of easy looping seaside trails and more challenging adventures along cliffs and into dunes, Atkinson Bluff Trail offers something for everyone.

Although rated “easy” by California State Parks, this trail is as long as a 2.9-mile looping trail with shorter loops available and access to dunes for the more adventurous. A seaside treat, it also features expansive inland views of forests and cliffs.

*Trail ratings vary and in this guide you will find information to make the best choice for your health and wellness goals.

Trails Rx

Enjoy the health benefits of time in nature on the Atkinson Bluff Trail at Año Nuevo State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Why is this a healthful experience?

Options for simple or rigorous hiking

A mental challenge

A vibrant and varied landscape, where succulents, wildflowers, and grasses meet the ocean’s edge and connect to sand dunes and water

Resting spots for contemplation

Trails Rx Benefits

Unleash the Healing Power of Nature

Trails Rx was established to help you improve your physical and mental health while enjoying time in nature. With guidance from Sempervirens Fund's Wellness Advisor, Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, we took inspiration from her work with Iowa's Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

The program promotes regular use of these trails, or parks near you, to integrate nature's healing benefits into daily life.

"Research increasingly finds that human health is improved by spending time in nature. Whether exercising, birdwatching, or spending quiet, mindful time outdoors, a host of physical and mental health benefits have been confirmed."

Dr Suzanne Avatar

Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller
MD, FACOG FABOIM Sempervirens Fund Wellness Advisor

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What Does the Data Say?

Here are ways you can measure the benefits of enjoying the Atkinson Bluff Trail:

Light Pace

2.5 miles per hour

Trail Length

2.9 miles

Metabolic Equivalent of Task

The amount of energy used while active compared to energy used sitting still.

3.0 METs

Time

70 minutes

Calories

Estimates vary by weight.

130 lbs

215 calories

165 lbs

273 calories

200 lbs

331 calories

235 lbs

389 calories

Moderate Pace

3.5 miles per hour

Trail Length

2.9 miles

Metabolic Equivalent of Task

The amount of energy used while active compared to energy used sitting still.

4.0 METs

Time

22 minutes

Calories

Estimates vary by weight.

130 lbs

195 calories

165 lbs

247 calories

200 lbs

300 calories

235 lbs

352 calories

Trail Benefits

Health Benefits of Unique Features along the Atkinson Bluff Trail

Water spray offers special health benefits.

As ocean water moves, negatively charged electrons fill the surrounding air. Inhaling and being in the presence of these electrons confers healthful, balancing effects on our immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. You might notice an energy boost, similar to the awakening effects of a morning shower, after spending some time next to moving water.

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Blue and green space is good for our mental health.

A 2021 study examined data from 18 countries looking at green spaces, inland blue spaces (lakes and rivers), and coastal blue spaces to explore how these different environments affect mental health. Frequency of recreational visits to green, inland-blue, and coastal-blue spaces in the previous four weeks were all positively associated with positive well-being and negatively associated with mental distress. The countries demonstrating the highest levels of positive well-being (Spain, Portugal, and Bulgaria) were associated with the highest number of nature visits and feelings of “nature connectedness.”

Making it a regular practice to visit this trail might just leave you feeling more connected to nature and improve your mental health and well-being.

Look off into the distance.

The high vantage point of the Atkinson Bluff Trail allows us to take in a vast landscape, gazing miles into the distance across the bluff to the mountains or out into the Pacific. Many people spend the majority of their time indoors, often gazing at screens and monitors. The act of gazing at wide landscapes is a great break for the brain and eyes and is something we should try to do regularly.

See more below in our Invitations section for suggestions to maximize this experience.

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Invitations

Body and Mind Contemplation

We believe each place has the potential to reward our senses and bring us peace and mindfulness. In the practice of Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, invitations are prompts we can give ourselves to invite an inward response to the nature we are experiencing. In this section we offer invitations you might respond to in your experience visiting the Atkinson Bluff Trail.

Pleasures of Presence

For these invitations sit, stand, or rest comfortably against something solid and close your eyes or lower them to the ground.

Rest comfortably and slowly breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice the air: the fragrance, the temperature, and the moisture.

Trx Invitations

Invitations for the Atkinson Bluff Trail

Take 5-10 minutes to notice what is visibly in motion. In silence, look up high, look down low, look at objects up close, and gaze at your surroundings in the distance, simply noticing what is in motion. If your attention becomes distracted, gently bring it back to noticing what is visibly in motion.

You might spend some time jotting down or journaling what you noticed during this experience.

Learn more about Forest Bathing and check out a longer list of invitations to consider.

About the Park

Año Nuevo State Park

Just 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, Año Nuevo State Park is best known for witnessing one of the world’s largest populations of northern elephant seals. Since the park was first established along Highway 1 in 1985, it has grown to more than 4,000 acres stretching from the redwood forests of neighboring Butano and Big Basin Redwoods State Parks down to Año Nuevo Island just off the coast. Sempervirens Fund continues to protect and connect forests nearby for people and wildlife.

The diversity of habitat from old-growth redwood, knobcone pine, and red alder riparian forests to freshwater marshes, coastal terrace prairies, and sensitive native dunes supports many types of wildlife. Elephant seals, Steller and California sea lions, otters, coyotes, and the rare and endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged Frog find shelter in the park. Año Nuevo Point is along a major bird migratory route fantastic for birding.

Steeped in history, Año Nuevo State Park’s Marine Education Center has a natural history exhibit and offers cultural history presentations.

What The Park Offers

Accessibility

Parking Lot

Seating benches

Drinking fountains

Restrooms

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Getting There

Know before you go: Visit the trail page for the latest updates.

Año Nuevo State Park

The park is located on Highway 236 in Boulder Creek.

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