Emma McCrary Trail (Golf Club Drive to Rincon Trail)
2.2 miles; starting elevation 100 ft; max elevation 460 ft
by Brooke Wright
Prized by local mountain bikers for its smoothness and speed, Emma McCrary links the bike paths of downtown to Wilder Ranch State Park via the U-Conn trail. It also connects with an unofficial network of trails on the upper campus of UCSC.
But this trail, engineered by Drew Perkins of the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz to be accessible to all skill levels, is a lot of fun in its own right and a great place for beginners to dabble in mountain bikery. It's also gorgeous. Skirting shady hillsides, the smooth track traverses mixed woodland forest and redwood ravines. There are some spectacular oak, Douglas fir, madrone and laurel trees on this trail.
Starting at the Golf Club Drive entrance of Pogonip, find the McCrary trailhead off to the right. The trail starts out open and sunlit before quickly dodging through redwood cover on an undulating, smooth path with few opportunities for mistakes but many opportunities to gain speed and have fun. It is a true multi-use trail, with equestrians, joggers and bikers sharing it on any given day. Though the sign says it's 1.5 miles, late-stage changes in the trail design lengthened the project, and Perkins says it's more like 2.2 miles, end to end.
Despite the fun undulations, the trail steadily gains elevation from start to finish. After the first half-mile it wraps around a canyon and over a wood bridge after which some woodsy, brush-free switchbacks take you up to the Rincon Trail intersection. This is where McCrary ends and U-Conn begins. (Keep an eye out during the last half-mile for a big, interestingly configured redwood nicknamed the Celery Tree off to the north of the trail. You'll know it when you see it.)
Photo by Brooke Wright