Travel Blog

Hike into the New Year with State Parks

2022 New Year’s Day Hikes

Kick-start the new year with an energizing hike through ancient redwoods, along coastal bluffs and sandy beaches, and beside soothing mountain streams and rivers. On January 1, 2022, state parks across America are offering free-guided hikes for the eleventh annual First Day Hikes. Get outside, connect with nature, and expand your knowledge of the wildlife, plant life, and people who were here long before us.

For 2022, COVID safety guidelines have been instituted. All hikes will be socially distanced and require masks. Most hikes require pre-registration at www.santacruzstateparks.as.me. Spaces are limited and early pre-registration is recommended.

Whichever First Day Hike you choose, you’ll start the new year feeling healthy, recharged, and inspired to explore more Santa Cruz County state parks! Be sure to tag your First Day Hike photos with #VisitSantaCruz and #FirstDayHikes! Happy hiking into the New Year!

The SS Palo Alto - aka The Cement Ship - is an iconic landmark at Seacliff State Beach. Many years, waves, surf, and storms have battered the SS Palo Alto, but she remains visible from the shore.

Seacliff State Beach

Concrete Ship History Walk at 11am
Learn about Seacliff State Beach’s fascinating history on this 1-mile, 1-hour stroll to the Aptos Creek Bridge and back. Get the lowdown on the Concrete Ship, the development of Aptos, “The Madman of Seacliff,” and much, much more. Pre-registration required at www.santacruzstateparks.as.me. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 685-6444. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks. 

Length: 1 mile, 1 hour

What to Bring: Water and layered clothing

Meeting Location: Meet at the shaded picnic tables next to the visitor center

Natural Bridges State Beach

Monarch Grove Hike at 11am
Walk through the monarch grove with a state park interpreter and discover the diversity of habitats at Natural Bridges. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 423-4609, ext.8. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks.

What to Bring: Bring layered clothing and water

Meeting Location: Natural Bridges State Beach Visitor Center

Tidepools Hike at 2pm
See the diversity of habitats at the park on a walk out to the Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve to explore the rocky tidepools with a state park interpreter. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 423-4609, ext.8. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks.

What to Bring: Bring layered clothing, sturdy shoes, and water

Meeting Location: Natural Bridges State Beach Visitor Center

Wilder Ranch State Park

Coast Nature Walk at 11am
On this 2.5-mile, 2-hour family-friendly walk, we’ll explore the plants, animals, and geology of our coastal bluffs. Pre-registration required at www.santacruzstateparks.as.me. Rain cancels. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 426-0505. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks.

Length: 2.5 mile, 2-hour family-friendly walk

What to Bring: Bring water, hat, closed-toe shoes, layered clothing, and binoculars if available

Meeting Location: Meet next to park map in main parking lot. Rain cancels

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Redwood Grove for Kids at 9am
Kids, explore the old-growth redwood grove and learn some redwood basics! Discover these tall trees and the place in which they live, in addition to the animals that call this forest home. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 335-7077. Event made possible by Mountain Parks Foundation and California State Parks.

What to Bring: Bring water and layered clothing

Meeting Location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Old-Growth Redwood Tour at noon 
Are there different kinds of redwoods? How do coastal redwoods grow to become the tallest organisms on earth? Why are there so few old growth trees left? Learn the answer to these questions and more every Saturday when you take a walk through the wondrous old-growth forest with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic docent. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 335-7077. Event made possible by Mountain Parks Foundation and California State Parks.

What to Bring: Water, snacks, layered clothing, and hiking shoes

Meeting Location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Redwoods and a River at noon
Meander through the redwood forest and down River Trail to Cable Car Beach with a knowledgeable docent. On the way, you will experience two of the park’s ecosystems, discuss redwood and river ecology, and see wildlife of both ecosystems. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 335-7077. Event made possible by Mountain Parks Foundation and California State Parks.

What to Bring: Bring water, snacks, and layered clothing

Meeting Location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

First Day Hike at 9am

Join for a 3-mile, 2.5-hour walk to the site where the town of Loma Prieta was located and the hidden spot deep in the redwood forest where marine fossils can be found. We will encounter the remains of the old lumber mill, follow the trail of the ghost trestles and learn about the wonders of our giant redwoods and their survival. Pre-registration required at www.santacruzstateparks.as.me. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $8. For more information, call (831) 685-6444. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks.

Length: 3-miles and about 2.5 hours

What to Bring: Water, snacks and layered clothing

Meeting Location: Geroge’s Picnic area next to steel bridge before the winter gate

New Brighton State Beach

First Day Hike at 2:30pm
Celebrate the beginning of the new year by joining us for a negative tide and sunset stroll on a 2-mile, 2-hour roundtrip adventure from New Brighton to Capitola. We will encounter interesting geological features in a coastal bluff, 5-million-year-old whale fossils, and tide pool creatures. We will return to New Brighton around 4:30 pm and may remain on the beach until sunset. Pre-registration required at www.santacruzstateparks.as.me. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 685-6444. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and California State Parks.

Length: 2-miles and about 2 hours

What to Bring: Water, snacks, extra layers, and shoes with good grip

Meeting Location: New Brighton State Beach

For a full list of guided First Day Hikes in Santa Cruz County, visit thatsmypark.org.

Updated December 2021

Memory: 20MB (7.81% of 256MB)