5 Favorite Santa Cruz County Bike Paths
With everything that’s going on, one thing we can do to de-stress is to hop on our bikes. Biking is an ordinance-acceptable outdoor activity when practicing social distancing. To help, Ecology Action has picked 5 local bike paths for car-free, family-friendly biking and to ease commuters into biking to work.
Many local bike paths and cut-throughs often allow those on bikes to take a more direct route while enjoying tucked-away open spaces, creeks, and beaches. Some of these paths aren’t readily apparent. In this article, we aim to unveil some of these lesser-known paths.
Five favorite neighborhood bike paths:
- Arana Gulch Path: This scenic half-mile trail connects downtown and the east side of Santa Cruz to Live Oak. The path winds through the City’s 63-acre greenbelt space situated at the back of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. It offers a pastoral view of the Santa Cruz Mountains, creek crossings, rolling meadows, cows grazing, and gnarled oak trees. Arana Gulch Path is a more direct, safer, and more comfortable route than the heavily trafficked Soquel Avenue or East Cliff/Murray for people on bikes headed in either direction between downtown Santa Cruz and Live Oak. The paved path features two hills, so be careful on the descents. You’ll have to exert yourself on the uphill slopes, especially if you’re riding a beach cruiser. This path is popular for dog walking, families, and people of all ages out for a stroll.
- Branciforte Creek Trails: These 3 sections of not-so-easy-to-find paved paths are about .6 miles long and follow Branciforte Creek as it winds toward its terminus at the San Lorenzo River through the Ocean Street/Market Street area of Santa Cruz. The terrain is flat, and you’ll see a few neighbors out walking their dogs. The path goes through a seldom-seen section of Santa Cruz, as it connects neighborhoods to the 701 Ocean Street County Building and the Emeline County Health Care Service Buildings. Path access is restricted to daylight hours.
- Path Over Soquel Creek: This hilly path connects Soquel Wharf Road and the Nob Hill Shopping complex off Bay Avenue in Capitola. It features a bikes-separated-from-pedestrians bridge over the deep Soquel Creek canyon. The east side of the trail starts at the back of the Nob Hill Shopping Center, so cyclists should be watchful of cars pulling out of and into parking spaces. This path is a nice way to avoid the heavy car traffic on Cliff Drive.
- Seacliff Park Beach Path (cut-through): This route is more of a beachside cut-through than a car-free path. A very short section is off-limits to cars and allows cyclists to travel from Seacliff State Beach to Rio Del Mar Boulevard/Neighborhood along Los Olas Drive. This beach route features one steep hill at the entrance to Seacliff Park, so be careful when descending and prepare yourself for a huff when biking uphill. Enjoy the sweeping views of the Monterey Bay, the sunken ship, and the crashing waves.
- Watsonville Slough Trails: The City of Watsonville has developed a well-connected slough trail system that connects residents to some shopping and activity centers as well safe and all-age recreation. These trails offer access to the City’s stunning 800-acre freshwater wetland. There are more than 7 miles of trails and 29 trail entrances into Watsonville neighborhoods, offering many opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of our special wetlands for everyday travel, recreation, and relaxation. These trails aren’t paved, so wide tires are recommended for less experienced cyclists.
Santa Cruz County is rich in local bike paths. This list is only a sample of the bike paths that can be found throughout the various areas of the county. Looking for more bike paths in Santa Cruz County? Check out the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s bike map. Additionally, the county has numerous dirt trails for beginning and advanced cyclists that Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz lists on their website.
If you see a hazard, report it. You can notify the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission of obstacles or hazards that may inhibit bike or pedestrian travel by submitting a hazard report. These reports are forwarded to the appropriate local jurisdiction for action. Reports may be submitted at any time.