Ten minutes from downtown Santa Cruz lies a lush city greenbelt with spectacular views overlooking town and Monterey Bay. Pogonip’s 640 acres and 8 miles of trail serve up prime Santa Cruz hiking, walking and running through redwood forest, oak woodland and remnants of coastal terrace prairie, plus some good old-fashioned, totally nonnative-yet-fetching-nonetheless grassland. The very limited mountain biking possibilities expanded with the June 2013 opening of the Emma McCrary Trail, which connects Santa Cruz mountain bikers and equestrians with bike trails at UCSC and Wilder Ranch State Park. Pogonip is so beloved by city residents that many people honor it by putting a “the” in front of its name, as in: “I go to the Pogonip daily to recover from my soul-sucking job.”
Though its old-growth redwoods were logged in the mid-1880s, partly to fuel the lime kilns found here, Pogonip still has four old-growth trees that were too funky to chop. One of them towers over the Spring Box Trail (accessible via Spring Trail ). A few feet away from this botanical behemoth lies a koi pond, of all things—a small square stone pool where citizens keep dumping their koi and goldfish in defiance of city staff’s best efforts to keep the nonnative finned folk out of the park. Read more.
GOOD FOR Hiking, walking and running. Cyclists and equestrians are allowed on the Emma McCrary Trail and the U-Conn Trail. Dogs are allowed on leash everywhere but on the Pogonip Creek Nature Loop, Lookout Trail, the Harvey West Trail and the Nature Loop in Sycamore Grove.
THE AUTHORITIES FROWN UPON mountain biking and horseback riding anywhere but on the U-Conn trail, the Rincon Connector and the Emma McCrary Trail.
YOUR MOM WOULD TELL YOU TO steer clear of anything north of (and including) Fern Trail, since the far reaches of the park are a favorite haunt of heroin dealers. Also, mountain lions have been spotted at Pogonip, so leave the deer costume in the car.
CREATURE COMFORTS CONSIST OF nothing. Pee before you get here and bring your own water.
IF YOU’RE LUCKY YOU’LL get to the blackberries lining the entrance at Golf Club Drive before anyone else does, find koi in the spring box, catch the moonrise over the meadow.
3 miles; 90 minutes; moderate
Our favorite Pogonip sampler platter loop starts at the end of Golf Club Drive and winds through the whole shmear: grassland, redwood forest, oak woodland and abandoned clubhouse grounds.
Spring Trail to Spring Box Trail
3 miles; 60 minutes; easy
The three-mile Spring Trail in-and-out is hugely popular, but this little variation is even better and leads to a couple of only-in-Pogonip treasures.
MOUNTAIN BIKING/MULTI-USE TRAILS
Emma McCrary Trail (Golf Club Drive entrance to Rincon Trail junction)
2.2 miles; starting elevation 100 ft; max elevation 460 ft
The long-awaited multi-use trail through Pogonip features deftly engineered switchbacks through redwood ravines and shaded hillsides.
Downtown Santa Cruz to UCSC via Emma McCrary Trail
9.6 miles; starting elevation 100 ft; max elevation 800 ft
Bike from downtown to UCSC's Upper Campus in mostly car-free bliss.
Directions: (Golf Club Drive Entrance) From downtown Santa Cruz, follow River Street north until it crosses Highway One and turns into Highway 9. About a half-mile north of the Highway One intersection, across from the Metro maintenance yard, turn left onto Golf Club Drive and follow it to the end. Park on the shoulder.
(Spring Street Entrance) From Mission and Bay streets on the Westside of Santa Cruz, travel up Bay toward the university. At the entrance to UCSC, turn right on High Street. Turn left on Spring Street and follow it to the end.
(Harvey West Entrance) From downtown Santa Cruz, follow River Street/Highway 9 about a quarter-mile past Highway One. Turn left at Encinal, then left again at Dubois. Park on the street near Dubois and Harvey West Blvd.
Golf Club Dr, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060. 831.420.5270. Learn more at the Pogonip website.