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.

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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. 

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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.}

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