When most folks think of Santa Cruz County, they imagine its iconic beaches and breathtaking coastline, but the small, forested communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains are just as dreamy as its ocean views. Known as San Lorenzo Valley (SLV), the area is comprised of the towns of Felton, Ben Lomond, Brookdale, and Boulder Creek which pay homage to the lumber industry that necessitated their existence. If you’re searching for the scent of the redwoods and the desire for a slower place, this is just the spot for you. Spend the day or extend your stay, the San Lorenzo Valley is waiting for you to explore.
ATTRACTIONS + ACTIVITIES
Train enthusiasts of all ages will be delighted by Roaring Camp Railroads. The space is modeled after a train depot from the 1880s down to the clapboard general store. Train riders can choose between two round-trip options: Bear Mountain and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. If you choose to sit in the open car, make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen for warmer weather. On-site parking is $10 and tickets to ride the train must be purchased in advance.
Stop by the Felton Covered Bridge Park and marvel at a California State Historical Landmark. Built in 1892, the Felton Covered Bridge is one of the few covered bridges remaining in the state. There is a nearby playground and a wide grassy expanse for a picnic or a pick-up soccer game.
Swing through the trees at Mount Hermon Adventures! Those who dare to take on the heights can choose between an adventure in the coastal redwood forest on the Redwood Canopy Tour – a fully guided 6 zip line canopy tour, or the Sequoia Aerial Adventure, a self-directed, multiple challenge adventure course.
Rather stay on the ground? Swing a golf club at the pristine forested Boulder Creek Golf and Country Club.
History buffs will want to visit the SLV Museum. The unassuming museum includes displays of early SLV life on logging, trains, early schools, antique kitchen, and frequent rotating exhibits. Space is limited, and reservations are recommended via their website.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is just steps from Roaring Camp Railroads, is a not-to-miss day in the forest. The wide, flat Redwood Grove Loop Trail is perfect for little hikers, strollers, wheelchairs, or folks who are short on time, but want to experience the majestic redwoods. This shaded path has plenty of rest spots. For those who want a longer loop, head down to the River Trail which follows the San Lorenzo River or hike to the observation deck for views to the ocean on a clear day.
For additional hiking head to nearby Fall Creek in Felton. Parking for Fall Creek is free, but be sure to arrive early if you want a spot in the small lot. You can also park along Highway 9. Trail access is limited in some sections due to recent fire activity.
Have an aspiring green thumb? Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, a local hotspot known for its nursey may inspire it to flourish. They also offer a variety of supplies for beekeepers, cheesemakers, and canners.
For regional art, stop by Skavenge Art for hand painted wood pieces and cards. Mountainside has a selection of local or small business items with jewelry created by the owner. For a wide selection of houseplants step into Wild Iris, while Simpatico has carefully selected home goods for those seeking style and treasures. Also be sure to check out the pop-up markets from the Mountain Art Center and the monthly Santa Cruz Mountains Makers Market.
Wylder Space creates meals from scratch for brunch 9-2pm on Saturday and Sunday, with dinner options Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Indoor seating is limited to up to five people. Take out can be picked up from their back window.
Nab fresh bread or a pastry from Sunflower Bakehouse located at Wild Roots Market in Felton. La Placa Family Bakery offers fresh pastries and traditional Sicilian desserts.
Shop local at the Felton Farmer’s Market every Tuesday from 1:00-6:00pm May through October.
Romantic dinners under the redwoods are what the Italian restaurant Casa Nostra in Ben Lomond does best. Their Tap Room serves up local favorites from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Discretion Brewing, and cider from Santa Cruz Scrumpy as well as local and international wines.
The SLV area has a number of quaint properties with picture-perfect cabins nestled under towering redwoods. Masood’s Lodge, Jaye’s Timberlane, and Fern River Resort Motel each offer cozy cabins in the valley’s forest setting. Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains has 25 modern rooms ringed by Douglas Fir trees, and the recently renovated, yet historic, Brookdale Lodge is another great choice along Highway 9. Looking for a B&B experience? Fairview Manor offers redwoods, seclusion, and a full American style breakfast. In Bonny Doon, Flipjack Ranch is a unique B&B experience, as it’s a real working farm! The treehouse like accommodations are any Instagrammer’s dream and the morning menu is largely farm (and foraged) to table. And for those looking to simply sleep among the redwoods and the stars, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offers 107 campground sites. Space fills up quickly between Memorial Day and Labor Day so plan ahead.