Biking Engelsmans Loop to Long Meadow

Engelsmans Loop to Long Meadow Trail to Engelsmans Loop
8 miles; 1,000 feet elevation gain

Four long miles up, four fast miles down. Or is it the other way around? Whether you start at the Highway 1 entrance 3 miles north of Santa Cruz at the bottom of the park, or at the Empire Grade entrance 2.5 miles past Heller Drive at the East Entrance to UCSC, this combination of trails with its 1000 feet of elevation gain provides long, swift descents down a fire road and unparalleled views of the bay. From the parking lot at Highway 1, go through the underpass and past the horse corrals. Just past the bridge, take either branch of Engelsmans Loop Trail and climb through grassland edged by oak and madrone woodland to where it meets Wild Boar Trail and Long Meadow Trail (1.5 miles if you took the left branch of Engelsmans, 1.7 if you took the right). Take Long Meadow to the top, traversing two steep ascents and otherwise steady upward gains through meadows that are extraordinarily popular with deer; off to the right you get a good look at second-growth redwood and Douglas fir forest. Just before Long Meadow links up with Chinquapin Trail, the soil lightens in color and the vegetation changes to stiff, brushy manzanita and yerba santa with its blackened leaves as you enter a section of rare Santa Cruz sandhill habitat. Turn around and enjoy the ride down.

Note: In 2012 a section of deeply rutted fire road on the west branch of Engelsmans Loop was closed to foot and bike traffic and a single-track bypass trail opened. It features a couple of hairpin turns but is otherwise pretty mellow, with sweeping lines and a gradual pitch.

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