Wilder Ranch is a favorite place for mountain biking. Photo by Jenn Ireland.
Biking is a way of life in Santa Cruz. No small wonder, considering we’ve got trails for every skill and endurance level, whether your bike was made by Schwinn or Specialized (or Santa Cruz, for that matter). How could it be any other way, when we're home to world-class mountain bikers like Tyler McCaul and road warrios like Ben and Andy Jacques-Mayne? Here are the top places to go for a ride, courtesy the Santa Cruz Weekly Gold Awards Reader Survey.
Westcliff Drive Stretching from Natural Bridges State Park to the Boardwalk, this bike ride is as scenic as it gets. Meander on three miles of wide, paved path and enjoy breathtaking views of the bay and other happy strollers. You won’t be able to wipe the goofy grin off your face.
Wilder Ranch State Park The relatively mellow trails at Wilder Ranch State Park are ideal for beginning mountain bikers, but there are tough, strenuous ones too, and the variety found on 34 miles of trail keeps even advanced bikers coming back. From the sea cliffs to the beach and up through forest and meadow, there’s enough single- and double-track to go around.
Forest of Nisene Marks State Park If you are the owner of a full-suspension mountain bike and some serious cajones, the Soquel Demonstration Forest at the top of Nisene Marks, with 20-plus miles of jumps, trails and stunning scenery, is a mountain biking playground.
There are also shorter, easier in-and-out trails from the entrance of Nisene Marks off Soquel Drive for the cruiser or the adrenaline junkie-in-training. Big trees keep it shady, and the ride along Aptos Creek is just plain beautiful.
UCSC For bikers, there are two sides to the UCSC campus. There’s the unpaved Upper Campus trails, where one might spy the remnants of Elfland peeking through the trees and hop on the U-Conn trail to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Or you can work those glutes and enjoy stunning views of the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz by biking the roads that wind up to campus. Either way, don’t miss a chance to whiz down the bike path by the Music Center on your way down.
East Cliff Drive If you want to get a feel for why people move to Santa Cruz and never leave, bike East Cliff Drive. You’ll venture past some of our best beaches and communities, and you can always grab a cold one at the Crow’s Nest if you get thirsty. The stretch along Pleasure Point recently enjoyed a facelift, and now it’s even more prime for surf-watching and dolphin-spotting.
The Bike Dojo holds regular outdoor rides in the Santa Cruz area for riders of all levels.
Epicenter Cycling rents bikes and does tours of Nisene Marks and Wilder Ranch.
Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz hold regularly scheduled rides, including some for beginners.
Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission makes a free downloadable bike trail map.
Shuttlesmith Adventures can ferry you to the summit for all-day fun in Soquel Demonstration Forest.
Spokesman in Santa Cruz organizes serious road bike rides.