A highlight of any traveler’s California holiday must be a trip to see the ancient redwoods, and Santa Cruz is the perfect spot.
I’ve spent several days in this charming California beach town, enjoying its breathtaking ocean views, watching the surfers for hours on end, and eating fresh, delicious seafood. Now, it’s time to head just a short distance to the lush forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains to hike, bike and even zipline through the redwoods canopy.
Giant Trees at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Arriving at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, just minutes from the beach, I'm amazed to find this beautiful, tranquil place bursting with vibrant autumn colors and wildlife. It is early, and the air is crisp as I begin my hike along one of the trails. I choose a loop that runs for about 3.2 km and I am immediately in awe. Standing about 87 meters high, the redwoods are so tall that I can barely see their tops. Some must be 4 meters wide, and I'm told that many are more than 1,800 years old. I literally climb inside a tree and stand up. It's incredible. Sunlight drifts down through the tree canopy, casting a gentle light across my path just as three young deer pass by. Later, I ride my bike down a scenic trail, accompanied by birdsong.
Old-Fashioned Steam Train Ride at Roaring Camp
Mid-morning, I head to Roaring Camp Railroads, where a 19th century steam train takes passengers through the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is something I must experience! Apparently, I’m not the only one thinking this way; the grounds at Roaring Camp are bustling with people. With its general store and old-fashioned train station, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. As the train approaches and the engineer blows the horn, the faces of children and adults alike light up. I sit in an open-air caboose and enjoy the next 90 minutes as the train slowly takes us deep into the mountains. The early morning chill has given way to the sun that so frequently shines on Santa Cruz.
Zipline Canopy Tour at Mount Hermon Conference Center
Following a pleasant sandwich from a local favorite, The Buttery, I am on my way to Mount Hermon Conference Center for a zipline canopy tour. I get fitted with safety equipment and go through a short training session with guides who are incredibly helpful. I stand about 46 meters in the air, atop the first platform and, as I take off, I am surrounded by glorious redwoods amidst this lush green forest. One of my fellow adventurers said you can almost feel the energy the trees generate. The scenery is stunning from every angle. Below me runs a quiet stream and, above, birds converse in their own special way. The tour lasts about two hours and is marvelous, a must-do in Santa Cruz.