Santa Cruz County moves to the Orange Tier.

Travel Blog

Pair Your Favorite Path With a Pint

There’s no shortage of great hiking and quality craft beer in Santa Cruz County. So why not combine them? Below we’ve paired some of our favorite trails with a nearby spot to enjoy a post-hike pint of local brew!

The Forest of Nisene Marks

Why:
Otherworldly redwoods, meandering Aptos Creek, and the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake are just some of the notable features found at this park named for the woman who gifted the land to California.

The Trail:
Hit the Old Growth Redwood loop trail, and within minutes you’ll be scrambling over a makeshift bridge of downed trees and slippery rocks to cross rippling Aptos Creek (a seasonal bridge is added from May through October). It sets an adventurous tone for your journey into a wondrous forest of towering redwoods and sorrel-blanketed ground. Keep an eye out for the sign that points to Twisted Grove. What sounds like a metal band is actually a mesmerizing cluster of tilted, swaying redwood trees.

Where to Fill Your Post-Hike Pint:
Looking for a wide selection of beer? Beer Thirty offers a welcome, spacious patio for people and their dogs – as long as those well behaved dogs stay on leash.

Wilder Ranch State Park

Why:
The stresses of modern life feel eons away at this peaceful, 19th-century ranch that abounds with historic architecture, diverse hiking and mountain biking trails, and a show-stopping stroll along the wild Pacific.

The Trail:
The Old Cove Landing Trail meanders along dramatic ocean bluffs passing secluded beach coves and fields of brussel sprouts and berries. Along the route, you’ll enjoy front-row views of the seals, dolphins, and whales frolicking just offshore. Don’t miss the sandy spur trail that leads to the lush Fern Grotto, a dazzling hanging garden tucked inside an easily accessible sea cave.

Where to Fill Your Post-Hike Pint:
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company is a popular spot to sip organic beers made with locally sourced ingredients. Pick up salty meat pairings from nearby El Salchichero, or devour a large pretzel paired with beer mustard. 11th Hour Coffee offers Budha Bowls and BLTs every day from three to eight pm. Don’t forget nearby Humble Sea Brewing Company. They have hand sized empanadas and four packs to go or enjoy in their beer garden.

The Pogonip

Why:
Discover lots of fun surprises hidden in this forested hilltop expanse that glimpses of the Monterey Bay.

The Trail:
Eight miles of trails traverse green meadows and redwood forests at this patch of land between Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and UCSC. The Lime Kiln Trail passes fern-shrouded stone kilns that look straight out of Middle Earth. Lime kilns proliferated in Santa Cruz during the 1800s when lime was needed to produce the mortar and cement used to construct cities like San Francisco. Behind the kilns lies a grotto-like rock garden with invitations to pen personal notes and place them among the stacked rocks. Check out the nearby The Springbox Trail which leads to a spring-fed pond filled with swirling orange koi fish.

Where to Fill Your Post-Hike Pint:
On a quiet corner off eccentric Pacific Ave, Lúpolo is sure to satiate the thirst of beer and cider aficionados. Their highly changing selection of taps means there will always be something new to taste. Nibble from small plates, or if you have worked up an appetite, a well sized torta.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Why:
Majestic old-growth redwoods, remnants of an ancient seabed, and stunning bay views from a hilltop observation deck make this one of the most beloved parks in Santa Cruz County.

The Trail:
In less than a mile, the flat Redwood Grove Loop Trail tours you through ancient groves of soaring, old-growth redwoods. You can even duck inside the Fremont Tree, a hollowed-out behemoth named for an east coast explorer that led an expedition to the area in 1846. Modern day explorers can opt for a more challenging 4-mile roundtrip trek over a sandy, ancient seafloor to a hilltop observation deck with sweeping views of the Monterey Bay. To reach it, follow the Redwood Grove Loop trail to Pipeline Road, then up Ridge Fire Road to Pine Trail, over to Eagle Trail, and back to Pipeline Road and the Redwood Grove trail.

Where to Fill Your Post-Hike Pint:
It’s hard to find good Scottish Ale. Luckily Steel Bonnet in Scotts Valley has you covered with year-round and seasonal small batch selections. Pair your pint with food from visiting food trucks on their outdoor patio. And if you happen to be up for more trails after your pint, head to the Glenwood Preserve trails which are just a mile from the brewery.

Elkhorn Slough Reserve

Why:
An undiscovered gem with views to the expansive Monterey Bay. This out of the way location quickly immerses you in its refuge of oak trees and salt marshes. Be on the look-out for Southern Sea Otters and over three hundred species of birds which call this residence home.

The Trail:
The 2.2-mile South Marsh Loop is a generally flat, low lying path which weaves between views of Moss Landing and the green of surrounding farmland. Go exploring by taking the split to Hummingbird Island, or the South Marsh Overlook to bring your total trip to 3.8 miles.

Where to Fill Your Post-Hike Pint:
Within the past few years, South County has begun to emerge on the beer scene. As such, there is a growing selection to choose from. If you aren’t paying attention you may speed right by Corralitos Brewing Company, an unassuming brewery plopped amid crops and a busy highway. Take time to enjoy their hand-crafted ales on a small outdoor patio as the busy word rushes past. Fruition Brewing is another option and is located in East Lake Village shopping center in Watsonville. Fruition has an eye for session sour and you and your pup will love their dog friendly patio. And one more to mention, open since 2019, Beer Mule serves cider and hard kombucha along with a rotating selection of beers on tap. With their recently opened kitchen stay awhile in their welcoming atmosphere or the patio and watch as planes take off from the nearby Watsonville airport.

While visiting trails and breweries in Santa Cruz County, please remember to practice physical distancing and wear a mask when paying at kiosks and when in public places. With so much to explore, we want you to see it all. Safely. #LetCruzSafely

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