For your convenience, the Press-Banner has located, identified and compiled a few highlights of the state and county park systems’ trails.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, 101 North Big Trees Park Road, in Felton
- Redwood Loop Trail: At 0.8 miles, the Redwood Loop Trail is relatively flat, resplendent in rare, old-growth redwood trees and has lots of hollow trees perfect for hide-and-seek. A perfect trail for families with younger children.
- Pipeline Trail: This 3.3-mile trail cuts across the entirety of the Henry Cowell property, beginning near Pogonip in Santa Cruz, following the San Lorenzo River gorge before heading uphill to the campgrounds on Graham Hill Road. Perfect for a sunny afternoon hike with older kids.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 21600 Big Basin Way, in Boulder Creek
- Skyline to the Sea Trail to Waddell Beach: Families with young children may want to wait a few years before tackling this 12.5-mile trek, but older children and teens shouldn’t have too much trouble. This trail winds its way through trees and over hills as it follows the path from redwoods to riptides, offering spectacular views along the way. Friendly tip: Have a prearranged car waiting for you at Waddell Beach, because cell phone service there is virtually nonexistent.
- Sequoia Trail: For those not quite ready for the Waddell hike, why not start your “Rocky”-esque training montage on the Sequoia Trail? With a distance of 4 miles, this tamer trail offers classic Big Basin beauty with such family photo-worthy sights at Sempervirens Falls, Slippery Rock and Founders’ Monument.
- Redwood Trail: The perfect trail for those who want to experience the majesty of California’s first state park but haven’t got a full day to devote to it, the Redwood Trail is a half-mile loop that features level terrain and views of some of the tallest trees in the forest. Guided tours are offered on weekends during the summer months.
Quail Hollow Ranch County Park, 800 Quail Hollow Road, in Felton
- Discovery Loop: This .9-mile trail, nice and level, is perfect for families with little ones and can easily accommodate strollers. It meanders its way past a pond — full of turtles and frogs sunning themselves — before following along a dry creek bed before heading through a meadow full of rare species of wildflower, including the Ben Lomond spine flower.
- Sunset Trail: The Sunset Trail takes hikers on a 2.8-mile excursion through a sample of the varied and diverse ecosystems of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The trail wanders past wildflower meadows, redwood groves and Manzanita-filled sandhill habitats — all while offering scenic views of the valley. Keep an eye out for native lizard species. Probably best suited for families with older children.
Wilder Ranch State Historic Park, 1401 Old Coast Road, in Santa Cruz
- Old Landing Cove Trail: A bluff-top path that follows an old ranch road to a cove where, from the 1850s to the 1890s, schooners dropped anchor to load lumber. The 2-mile round trip offers hikers dramatic views of the California coastline and many reminders of the area’s past. Old Landing Cove also boasts a fern-filled sea cave, a unique natural phenomenon fed by an underground spring.
- Ohlone Bluff Trail: More adventurous hikers can continue past Old Landing Cove, as the trail continues north another 3.5 miles along the edge of the land, winding past gullies and ravines, before emerging at Four Mile Beach at the northern boundary of the park. This 10.5-mile round trip boasts some scenic views, but is probably for older children and teens.