Santa Cruz County delivers added value once summer ends, when mild temperatures, fewer crowds, and lower hotel rates help make travel more affordable. This season, there are plenty of free activities and events that won’t cost a penny. Below are a few of our favorite tips! For more info, check out our Top 12 Free Things to Do in Santa Cruz County for Fall and Winter.
Perched atop one of the highest ridges in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park offers expansive views of the San Lorenzo Valley. Miles of forested peaks stretch out below, fading from chartreuse and emerald green to sage, the furthest peaks a hazy blue that meet the fog-shrouded Pacific. Although not as famous as its neighbor, Big Basin State Park, Castle Rock has its own grove of redwoods, a 75-foot waterfall, miles of hiking along open ridges and through shady forests, and a playground of sandstone rock formations attracting both world-class climbers and amateur scramblers.
Have you been to Elkhorn Slough? This peaceful reserve is full of beauty and wildlife, plus you can choose how to explore, via waterways or on-foot on the 5 miles of trails. Check out these inspiring photos taken at this natural wonder and plan your own visit to Elkhorn Slough!
Santa Cruz is known for its phenomenal wildlife viewing opportunities. Year round whale watching, birding, otters and elephant seals, and seasonal monarch butterflies have put Santa Cruz County on the map for nature enthusiasts! And now, visitors and locals can have a new and improved Santa Cruz County Wildlife Watching Guide right in their own hands – for free!
Famed for its ancient redwoods, cascading waterfalls, and epic hikes, Big Basin Redwoods State Park hides a lesser-known coastal region with an identity and landscape all of its own. Named for the grizzly bears that once roamed its lush grounds, Rancho del Oso is a hidden gem with a dazzling spring wildflowers, enchanting marshlands laced with hiking and biking trails, and a magnificent nature center housed in a historic home once occupied by the family of President Herbert Hoover.