The Ultimate Guide to Lush Santa Cruz Mountains

6 mins read
Santa Cruz Mountains

Where are Santa Cruz Mountains?

The Santa Cruz Mountains are a cordilleran belt in central and northern California in the USA.

It is a part of the Pacific Coast Ranges. It acts as a parapet down the San Francisco Peninsula. The Santa Cruz Mountains apportions the Pacific ocean from the San Francisco Bay and the Santa Clara Valley.

The highest inselberg in the mountain range is Loma Prieta Peak. Mount Umunhum, Mount Thayer, Mount Bielawski, El Sombroso, Eagle Rock, Black Mountain, and Sierra Morena are other prominent mountaintops.

Central and Northern California High Spots

Silicon Valley, the innovative technological global center, is home to the most well-known companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google. Tesla, Twitter, Yahoo!, and eBay are also established in Silicon Valley. 

High technology company like Netflix is headquartered in Los Gatos Silicon Valley. San Mateo County in San Francisco Bay is one of the top five highest-income West Coast counties. 

On the west side of Silicon Valley lies Santa Cruz Mountains. Like all other California places, Santa Cruz is also full of natural and cultural wonders that have attracted tourists for ages.

Santa Cruz County

The province is on the California Central Coast, south of the San Francisco Bay Area region. The territory forms the northern coast of Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz County is bordered by the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Mateo County, and the Pacific Ocean.

The nearest famous cities of Santa Cruz County are San Francisco, San Jose, Monterey, and Los Angeles.

A Pinch of History

Once Santa Cruze was home to the Awaswa speaking Ohlone Native Americans. Later, the area was explored by the Spaniard Don Gaspar del Portal in 1769. He named the hillocks aloft the river running through Santa Cruz, meaning “Holy Cross” in Spanish.

In 1791 Spanish missionaries founded their mission, Mission Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz. They completed ‘The Mission Santa Cruz’ in September 1791 as the 12th California Mission.

By the 1820s, the area came under Mexican control. Then Americans took power in 1846. In 1850, California became a state, and Santa Cruz County was the twenty-seventh original county.

The city’s spectacular landscape, cozy climate, and mesmerizing beaches had attracted tourists. The tourism industry began to flourish there.

The University of California was established in 1965 in Santa Cruz. It also played a role in placing Santa Cruz on tourism maps.

Today Santa Cruz has become a place of advanced technology, various local industries, agriculture, and a fantastic tourist spot.

Why Should One Visit Santa Cruz Mountains?

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Image- JustinDolske @Flickr

Santa Cruz County is home to luscious foods, redwood forests, enchanting parks, breweries, wineries, breathtaking beaches, and many more. You will be mesmerized by the wonders of nature in this heavenly place.

Now let’s have a look at the enchanting beauty spots of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

1. State Parks

It is the effort of over 100 years to conserve nature. Today, the Cruz Mountains is an abode of 14 state parks. Each park here provisions fascinating experiences to its visitors.

County parks give prominence to progressive trails. Most of the trails begin in redwood-covered mountains and end on the stunning beaches of the Pacific Coast.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The 4,650 acres park is eminent for the 40-acre grove of towering old-growth redwood trees. The tallest tree in the park is relatively 277 feet tall and is around 1,500 years old.

The swimming hole, The Garden of Eden in the San Lorenzo River, hiking, bicycling, and camping are some of the park activities. The park conducts events throughout the year also. Another charm in the park is Roaring Camp Railroads.

Castle Rock State Park 

The park, the climber’s paradise, is an orchard of distinguished California Coastal Redwoods and giant fir trees. The alluring trail system with ravines and rock formations in Castle Rock State Park is part of the Californian open spaces.

The queer sandstone outgrowths at Castle Rock State Park are perfect for rock climbing.

Portola Redwoods State Park

An escape from the speedy city life to nature, Portola park’s lush redwood forest, waterfalls, and fireplace are rapturous. The park has 55 family campsites, 4 group campsites, and a trail camp.

You can relish the third-largest old-growth redwoods in the San Francisco bay area at Peter’s Creek Grove in Portola Redwoods State Park.

Santa Cruz Mountains’ oldest state park is Big Basin Redwoods, State Park.

2. Bewitching Beaches

Santa Cruz adorns 34 enchanting beaches. Each beach extends exclusive experiences.

You can visit the century-old Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz beaches are known as surfers’ paradise. There is a museum dedicated to surfing here. Steamer Lane, The Hook, Pleasure Point, and Cowells are the best surfing beaches.

Main Beach, Harbor Beach, and Walton Lighthouse are child-friendly beaches. You can watch the best tide pools in Natural bridges State Beach and Big Creek Beach. Some beaches allow dogs.

You have bird-watching spots on many beaches. You can watch bird fighting here. Sea lions are the other captivation. Sunny Cove and Cowell Beach are the finest places for boogie board lovers.

You must visit West Cliff Drive, the 3-mile walking and biking path along the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz, to enjoy your scenic drive and epic views of Monterey Bay.

Wonderful water activities, wildlife, golden sand, parks, trails countless attractions are waiting for the visitors to Santa Cruz beaches.

3. Wineries and Breweries

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Image- Andy L@Flickr

Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in California. Its high elevation, ocean effect, and varied microclimates favor vineyards. Approximately 200 vineyards and around 75 wineries are here.

Santa Cruz wineries are small, intimate, and family-run. You can taste wines from urban tasting rooms to spectacular country settings in Santa Cruz County. The landscape itself is enchanting.

To support the local winemaking community and maintain its quality, many winemakers confine the wholesale distribution; instead, they like to sell their products directly to the customers through native wine clubs or tasting rooms.

You can savor many Santa Cruz wines at local wine bars and restaurants also. So to relish these organic, unique Santa Cruze wines, you should trail to the Santa Cruz vineyards.

If all you need is a cold beer, then Santa Cruz Mountains is the place. It is a place with a plethora of breweries. You can taste the unique, delicious beers brewing by local vendors.

4. Redwood Forests

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Image- Byron Hetrick@Flickr

The tallest redwood in the Santa Cruz Mountains is 328 feet high. 

California is famous for its redwood tree forests. Coast redwoods are the world’s tallest trees. Many of them grow to be over 200 feet tall, and the tallest arise to over 350 feet. Many of these trees have been here for centuries.

The coast redwood habitat stretch-out from the southern coast of Oregon to California’s Central Coast, and there are several national and state parks full of redwoods in Santa Cruz County.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz Mountains is eminent for a grove of old-growth redwoods, including trees that are 1,800 years old and 300 feet tall.

Portola State Park is the best option if you want to cherish memories inside a serene redwood orchard. Like other Californian places, Santa Cruz Mountains also conserve their open spaces and preserve nature. The ancient redwood trees here help us realizing the wonderments of nature.

5. Delectable Food and Eateries

Like legendary redwood trees and glorious beaches, the toothsome Santa Cruz food also has a paramount role in the tourism maps and natives’ lives.

You can savor your dishes from the waterfront dining rooms to a local bakery. There are extraordinarily scrumptious edibles that only typical Santa Cruz eateries can serve.

 6. Shopping at Santa Cruz County

Plenty of shopping opportunities are there in Santa Cruz County. Family-owned shops and boutiques offer amazing shopping involvements. You can go Downtown Santa Cruz, Capitola Village, on the Santa Cruz Wharf for locally-made keepsakes.

The town offers eccentric shopping encounters in its specialty retail shops, nature stores at state parks, tasting rooms, and gift shops.

The city’s wide-ranging shopping offers include surf shops, book shops, art, clothing, and home furnishings. You can visit Farmers Market also.

Antique collectors can visit Antique Faire. If swimsuits or wet clothes are on your shopping list, acclaimed designer Jack O’Neill’s collections are available.

5. Wild Life

Nature enthusiasts are on cloud nine when they are in Santa Cruz because of its exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. 365 days of whale watching, seasonal monarch butterflies, sea lions, otters, and plenty of birds.

You can spot gray whales, blue whales, humpback whales, orca whales, and other whales in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Santa Cruz Mountains. 

You can watch over 400 species of resident and migratory birds in Santa Cruz County. You can go to Ano Nuevo State Park, one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seals, to learn more about elephant seals.

State Route 35 (SR 35) is mainly known as Skyline Boulevard. It is a  two-lane state highway in the U.S. state of California. If you want something different and want to get great views from the San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains, you can take a drive along Skyline Boulevard. 

Frequently Asked Questions for a Trip to Santa Cruz Mountains


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