West Cliff Drive

Scroll down to see a sweet short video by Michael Horn. Keep reading if you like: West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz surfing, walking, cycling, running, birding, beaches, wildlife viewing, tidepooling, sunsets

Video by Michael Horn
Photos by Michael Roberts

Santa Cruz loves its West Cliff Drive, and with good reason. A 2.5-mile bike and pedestrian path skirting the cliffs above the sea, West Cliff extends from the wharf at one end to Natural Bridges State Beach at the other, offering spectacular views of the Boardwalk, the city of Santa Cruz, the world-famous surf break Steamer Lane, the coastline of the entire Monterey Bay and the mountaintops of Big Sur 50 miles south.

Other popular destinations along West Cliff Drive include Cowells surf break (perfect for beginners and SUP); Cowell Beach (in front of the Dream Inn); the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (in the lighthouse overlooking Steamer Lane); Its Beach (the dog-friendly beach next to the lighthouse; Mitchell Cove (another dog-friendly beach, near the intersection of West Cliff Drive and Almar); and any place you can find a spot to settle in and watch the sunset. The Mobile Ranger tour app does a great job of explaining the geography of the coastline and the history of many cultural markers visible from the trail, including the "toilet bowls" and a wave motor.
Read Ten Tips for Happy Tidepooling

West Cliff Drive is an amazing place for viewing wildlife. It just does not disappoint. Platoons of brown pelicans, whiskered sea otters and sea lions are standard sights; lucky viewers will catch dolphins playing in the surf as well as gray whales and humpbacks passing through on their long migrations—and sometimes coming in close to feed and giving onlookers a thrill in the process. No wonder it’s Santa Cruz’s favorite place to pedal or stroll the hours away.

Natural Bridges State Beach