A woman sitting on a redwood tree in a forest in Santa Cruz Mountains, California. A woman sitting on a redwood tree in a forest in Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

Santa Cruz Mountains: A Scenic Wonderland

The Santa Cruz mountains are a cordilleran belt in California where the mesmerizing views are a sight to behold for the eyes.

It is a part of the Pacific Coast Ranges that acts as a parapet down the San Francisco Peninsula. The Santa Cruz mountains apportion 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.

Nature: Santa Cruz Mountains

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

1. About Santa Cruz County Location

The province is on the California Central Coast, south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The territory forms the northern coast of Monterey Bay: the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Mateo County, and the Pacific Ocean border Santa Cruz County.

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

2. 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.

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 attracted tourists. The tourism industry began to flourish there.

landscape of santa cruz trek cordillera blanca peru
Image Source: deopsitphotos

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

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

3. Why Should You Visit the Santa Cruz Mountains?

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.

3.1. State Parks

It is the effort of over 100 years to conserve nature. Today, the Cruz Mountains are an abode of 14 state parks, and each park here provides fascinating experiences for 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.

3.1.1. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

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Image Source: Parks

The 4,650-acre 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; another charm in the park is the Roaring Camp Railroads.

3.1. 2. 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 California’s open spaces. The queer sandstone outgrowths at Castle Rock State Park are perfect for rock climbing.

3.1.3. 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.

3.2. Bewitching Beaches

A view of a beach in Santa Cruz during sunset.
Photo by saira ahmed on Unsplash

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; a museum is also dedicated to surfing here.

The best surfing beaches are Steamer Lane, The Hook, Pleasure Point, and Cowells.

Main Beach, Harbor Beach, and Walton Lighthouse are child-friendly beaches. You can watch the best tide pools at Natural Bridges State Beach and Big Creek Beach.

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, and countless attractions await visitors to Santa Cruz beaches.

3.3. Wineries and Breweries

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. 

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

janisson baradon champagne winery epernay champagne region france
Image Source: depositphotos

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

Santa Cruz Mountains is the place if you only need a cold beer. It is a place with a plethora of breweries where you can taste the unique, delicious beers brewed by local vendors.

3.4. Redwood Forests

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 rises to over 350 feet. Many of these trees have been here for centuries.

The coast redwood habitat stretches 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.

Redwoods: The Tallest Trees | National Geographic

Like other Californian places, the Santa Cruz Mountains conserve their open spaces and preserve nature. The ancient redwood trees here help us realize the wonder of nature.

3.5. 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.

 3.6. 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 to 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, bookshops, art, clothing, and home furnishings.

adidas
Image Source: depositphotos

3.7. Wild Life

Nature enthusiasts are on cloud nine in Santa Cruz because of its exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities.

Three hundred sixty-five days of whale watching, seasonal monarch butterflies, sea lions, otters, and plenty of birds are available to explore.

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

4. End Note

You can watch over 400 species of native and migratory birds in Santa Cruz County.

If you want to explore something different and see great views from the San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains, you must drive along Skyline Boulevard. 

Have fun exploring!

Last Updated on March 1, 2024 by Sathi Chakraborty

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