Huge views of the bay and zero crowds await on the western edge of Santa Cruz at Moore Creek Preserve, a 246-acre greenbelt purchased by the City of Santa Cruz in 1998 and co-managed by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Once known as the Bombay Property, this little slice of heaven was at one time slated for a small townhouse development; a community outcry led to the $3.5 million purchase.
Moore Creek Preserve encompasses the riparian corridor formed by the West Branch of Moore Creek, which joins the longer East Branch (it originates on the UCSC campus) at the southeastern corner of the preserve before flowing beneath Highway 1 to form Antonelli Pond, near Natural Bridges. Mixed forest—think coast live oak, bay laurel and California hazelnut—thrive between the riparian zone and the wide-open grasslands of the higher terraces. High on the ridge, anchored in a ravine, Douglas firs and oak trees grow tall, crowning the view to the north. A half-mile–wide swath of rare coastal terrace prairie sweeps a mile southward toward the sea, ending at Highway 1.
Moore Creek is home to some endangered species, including the red-legged frog and Ohlone tiger beetle. Cattle graze the open pastures, a process that helps restore native grasslands. Moore Creek has some spectacular coast live oaks.
AWESOME FOR Hiking.
NOT WELCOME HERE Biking, walking your dog, camping, shooting at things, smoking, archery, fireworks, hellraising, burning the place down. Also, if cows scare you, consider going someplace else. They graze all along Prairie View Trail.
YOUR MOM WOULD TELL YOU TO Watch out for ticks on Prairie View and Terrace Loop trails during summer and autumn.
YOU WON’T FIND ANY Modern conveniences such as restrooms, drinking fountains or picnic tables. You got that, sweetcakes? It’s the Wild West out here.
WITH A LITTLE LUCK YOU’LL SEE Across Monterey Bay with vivid clarity. Moore Creek is positioned for great views.
Directions from Meder Street: Park on Meder Street on the east side of Western Drive (or within a few hundred yards of the road; the No Parking signs begin fairly soon). Walk a quarter mile, through a nice semirural neighborhood, crossing the East Branch of Moore Creek, to the entrance. East Meadow Trail takes you to Moore Creek Trail and the rest of the trail system.
Directions from Shaffer Road:. Park on Shaffer Road, which meets the Mission Street extension right at Highway One. Cross the highway and enter the park. Prairie View Trail will take you to the rest of the trail system.
Learn more at Moore Creek Preserve, Highway One at Shaffer Rd. 831.420.5270.
Vernal Ridge Trail
2.5 miles; 1 hour 15 min; easy to moderate.
See the most interesting parts of this lovely little park in one tidy hike.