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The very best Santa Cruz County fieldtrips

I asked around to find out the very best Santa Cruz County fieldtrips. My correspondents’ comments are in quotes. I haven’t done all these, but they’re worth a try! Please leave more suggestions as comments below.

North coast:

  • Wilder Ranch: Just north of Santa Cruz, learn how a ranch operated in the 19th century. Also, bring bikes and bike the trails up on the bluff.
  • Swanton Berry Farm: Visit the farm, pick berries, pay by the pound, and eat them up!
  • Pebble Beach: No, not the one south of us. And I’m fudging because I think this is in San Mateo County. This is a beach just south of Pescadero that is a true pebble beach. To get to the beach, go down on the north side of the parking lot. To access fabulous tidepooling, follow the path down on the south side of the parking lot.

San Lorenzo Valley:

  • Quail Hollow Ranch: We love Quail Hollow. I wrote about it here and here. Aside from the planned activities, it’s just a great place for a hike.
  • Henry Cowell State Redwoods: Henry Cowell is an excellent place to bring people who haven’t yet seen big redwoods but aren’t adventurous hikers. The main loop is super easy and includes a tree so big you can go inside it. For the more adventurous, find the various beaches and go for a swim in the river. In the fall, the Ohlone Festival is a fun cultural event.

Santa Cruz:

  • City of Santa Cruz Dump: “Includes hands on recycling, a film and an art project making paper.”
  • Neary Lagoon: “Wildlife inhabiting or visiting the refuge include mallard and wood ducks, pied billed grebes, a multitude of coots, the world’s meanest geese, several varieties of fish and the occasional great blue heron or hawk.”
  • Life Lab: “We promote experiential learning for all ages through children’s camps, field trips, youth and internship programs, and teacher workshops. Drawing on over thirty years of work with students we have also created curricula and workshops for educators interested in bringing learning to life in gardens nationwide.”


  • Pacific Migrations: The visitor center at New Brighton State Beach is really fantastic. Instead of having the usual wildlife and history displays, they have arranged everything according to the theme of migration—both animal and human.
  • Nisene Marks State Park: Not a destination for many out-of-the-area folks, Nisene Marks is a really nice park for hiking and biking. If you have kids, the biking is fabulous, especially in the winter when cars aren’t allowed past the first gate. There’s a long, largely flat dirt/gravel/paved road you can follow. The cars are generally pretty respectful of bikes. The Old Growth Loop is a relatively easy hike that includes some old redwoods, including the wonderful twisted tree grove, where all the trees twisted into spirals trying to get at the sun as they grew.

Watsonville and south coast:

  • Elkhorn Slough: Birds, otters, little sharks. Hiking, kayaking. Teachers must first complete a Teacher Workshop before bringing a class to the Reserve.
  • Near the Slough: “We absolutely love going down to Moss Landing State Beach–not only are the waves often wilder and during the week NO ONE is there, but every time we have gone in the past year there is a large family of sea otters (about 30-50?) we can observe from really pretty close.  And then the sea lion colony can’t be beat!  We could watch this wildlife for hours.  And of course with the slough right there, such animal watching can easily be paired with a birding expedition there, which we have done and which was really fun.”
  • The Farm: The Farm is a unique agricultural showcase. It consists of an agricultural education center, demonstration farm, produce stand and recreation destination. The Farm is designed to tell the story of contemporary farming amidst the majestic surroundings of California’s Central Coast.

Posted in Parenting.

2 Responses

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  1. Viva Harris says

    Nice roundup, thanks!

  2. cassia laffin says

    THANK you so much!!
    Cassia Laffin
    First Grade Teacher at Mount Madonna School

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