Santa Cruz Epic Views

Hike Upper La Honda Creek Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Hiking shoes pictured on person sitting at an overlook of the Santa Cruz Mountains at Upper La Honda Creek Preserve in the South Bay

Redwoods, wildflowers, and ocean vistas offer the best of the Bay Area at Upper La Honda Creek Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Take a 3.75-mile loop through the preserve’s highlights, following new trail signs to special features. Parking here is by permit only (see details below in italics) and wide, former ranch roads create a sense of peace and solitude in windy grasslands.

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Start on the Cielo Trail, heading east towards the Big Tree. (Although it’s tempting to follow the ocean view from the parking lot, you’ll get better views and a gentler climb if you save it for the end.) The Cielo Trail is wide, shaded under Douglas firs, and leads to a signed spur for the Big Tree. At the end of the spur is a humongous old-growth redwood spared from logging. 

Gallery image 1 of 3
Gallery image 2 of 3
Gallery image 3 of 3

Next, head south to Vista Point, an excellent picnic spot. The forest transitions to grassland as you pass a residence and white barn. It’s windy and exposed, and on clear days, the ocean emerges southwest. Pass a junction for the Coho Vista Loop Trail, descending through a redwood tunnel to a clearing. 

Man standing at viewpoint overlooking Santa Cruz Mountains at Upper La Honda Creek Preserve

Here, at Vista Point, is a gorgeous panorama of grassy peaks, the Pacific Ocean, Lower La Honda Creek Preserve, San Gregorio State Beach, and the San Mateo coast. Retrace your steps back to Coho Vista Loop Trail and join it, savoring the staggering ocean views once more as you descend and then gently climb to the parking area.

BONUS FOOD: Alice’s Restaurant is 4 miles from Upper La Honda Creek Preserve in Woodside and is open for to-go orders.

A parking permit is required at Upper La Honda Creek Preserve. From Alice’s Restaurant at the junction of La Honda Rd. and Skyline Blvd., head north on Skyline Blvd. for 2.3 miles and then turn left onto Bear Gulch Rd. Drive 0.6 mile and then turn left onto Allen Rd. Drive 1.1 miles on the narrow road to a white gate. Enter the combination provided from your permit, and then proceed to the signed parking area. Be sure to close and lock the gate behind you. 

{Covid-19 Update, January 2021: Please download a map on the park’s website before you go; paper maps are not available. Please practice social distancing and wear a face covering when you’re not able to maintain 6 feet of distance.}

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam It All

    The hills have gone green just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, and this 7.5-mile lollipop loop hike passes through some of Mount Tam’s lushest spots, with bridges, creeks, a waterfall, and big views.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Headlands Over Heels

    People come from all over the world to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get a dramatic and novel view of the bridge without all the people on this moderate 6-mile hike in the Marin Headlands.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Wildflower Hiking Guide

    California’s wildflowers will be lovely this spring! So how do you find the best in bloom? Check out POST’s complimentary Wildflower Guide to find the best hiking trails with wildflowers.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Ohlone Time

    Keep this epic East Bay hike on your radar for wildflowers and a waterfall that only comes to life after rain. Get wayyy back in the Ohlone Wilderness among big hills and scenery, and Murietta Falls.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Truly Grand Day Hike

    One of the best spring day hikes in the Grand Canyon? See layer upon layer of the park’s grandeur—including the river—on this 3-mile (one-way) journey to Skeleton Point via the South Kaibab Trail.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Eucalyptus Loop

    Forest bathing among Australian trees and biting into tasty Australian meat pies—head to the 3.25-mile Eucalyptus Loop in Chino Hills and end with Aussie meat pies at a great local bakery.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Stairstruck in Hollywood

    Beachwood Canyon in Hollywoodland has an action-packed adventure with A-list workouts, big-budget views, and a stair-studded cast. Running time is 1.25 miles with five staircases

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Do it Yourself Walking Tour of Solvang

    Solvang has long been described as a “little slice of Denmark in Southern California." Experience the historic village on a 3-mile walk that explores the architecture, food, wine, and green space.

    View