Adjacent to Aptos Village Square, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park located in mid-county is a tribute to nature’s resilience. Named for Nisene Marks, the nature-loving mother of the Salinas farm family that bought the land in the 1950s, this park reflects an earlier time in Santa Cruz County. Remnants of old logging and railroad work done still on site offer hints of history throughout the forest. This dense, redwood paradise was clear-cut as recently as 1923, but today, towering second growth redwoods populate the hillsides. The 10,000-acre park offers miles of trails for walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Interesting sites include an unusual, twisted grove of redwoods, remnants of an old sawmill, and the epicenter of the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. For the outdoor enthusiast, the lush wilderness of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park lures hikers, runners, and bike riders with 30 miles of trails. The park, once clear-cut by loggers, is a testament to forest regeneration where second-growth redwoods coexist with new foliage.
At Sand Point Overlook, panoramic views of the Monterey Bay can be seen. Hidden treasures can be found throughout the entire park. Find the coy fish pond in the middle of the trees, or find an array of banana slugs after a rainfall. There are aged, wooden bridges to travel across and running waterfalls during certain times of the season. The Forest of Nisene Marks is picture perfect and gives visitors the illusion that they are in a lush, tropical rainforest without ever leaving the county. Dogs are allowed in the picnic areas at the park entrance as well as on paved roads. Horses are permitted on the four single-track trails below the steel bridge.