Golden beaches, beautiful Pacific views, and famous surf … don’t just take the famous boardwalk to see Santa Cruz: Take the stairs! This 2.6-mile urban hike features four cool stairways through Santa Cruz’s lively downtown and beautiful neighborhoods—rich with history.
For hassle-free parking, start at High and Highland and cross the footbridge over the highway to get to Mission Plaza. A small park here is home to Holy Cross Church, built on the site of the original mission church in 1889. One of the original mission buildings still stands, as does a replica chapel. Walk through the mission buildings along School Street, which leads to a staircase that descends into town. From the base of the stairs on North Pacific, turn right and marvel at “Jump In!” a new mural created by artist Sarah Bianco featuring local kids as the models in various jumping poses along the Sana Cruz coastline.
Next, take a detour up Mission Street and a special addition to Santa Cruz’s artistic beauty: a colorful mosaic staircase leading up to the mission. The mosaic was sponsored by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in 2016 and possesses a multitude of colors and designs, some abstract, others more obvious, like an ocean wave and a long stretch of trees. Afterwards, turn back and head along Pacific Avenue for a stroll through downtown and the many locally owned and run shops, cafes, and restaurants. Turn right on Walnut Avenue to head through the neighborhood of beautiful Victorian homes. Where Walnut intersects Rincon, you’ll see two stairways: the one on the left with the Pratchner placard is private property, but take the stairway on the right, which winds onto Towne Terrace. Head left immediately on Grover to reconnect to Walnut Avenue, passing Santa Cruz High School and crossing Mission Street where homes range from cottages to Craftsmans. Continue up Walnut to Escalona and turn right to wind through the peaceful westside neighborhood that connects back to High and Highland. Santa Cruz slam dunk!
Directions: From Hwy. 17 South, use the right lane to turn slightly right onto CA-1 N/Mission St. Turn right onto Highland Ave., then right again onto High St.