While many enjoyable venues have closed, the Santa Cruz Land Trust has reopened beautiful, calming paths through a shady forest.
It’s the right place at the right time. Walking under big trees through nature can make you smile. Hear quiet. Slow to a walk. Follow paths softened by leafy, packed earth.
This natural playground seems remote, but a short drive from our mountains takes you to Corralitos. In less than an hour, enjoy ten miles of trails through 402 forested acres.
If you like tall trees, you’ve come to the right place. See redwoods and white firs mixed with oaks. Below, the shaded understory features ferns and other shade-loving plants. It may be second growth, but it looks primeval.
Although Byrne-Milliron is all forest on relatively steep slopes, it offers a range of experiences.
Perhaps the easiest route is via the Byrne Trail. From the parking area, take Byrne Trail to the right. It is wide, allows for social distancing, and is mostly smooth with gradual grades. If your group tires easily, you can loop back to the parking lot via the Helmer Trail. Further up Byrne, you can take a side trip on a single-track to the Cathedral Rest Stop.
Continue on the Byrne Trail loop until you reach AJ’s Point of View. If the fog has lifted, you have a nice view of Corralitos farms, distant mountains, and a slice of ocean. A comfortable wooden platform offers seating, a table, and a mailbox filled with visitor journals.
After your rest, you can continue up Ridge Trip Road to the Eagle in Tree Vista. It’s not as comfortable as AJ’s Point of View, but it is higher (at about 1600 feet).
Now, you’re faced with a choice. You can return back to AJ’s Point of View, and then follow Rattlesnake Trail down to Byrne and the parking lot. For more of a challenge, continue from Eagle in Tree back down via the Ridge Top Trail to Byrne Trail.
Ridge Top Trail is misnamed. It tumbles down a steep slope suitable for experienced hikers and mountain goats. I wouldn’t recommend it for children or the faint-hearted. On the other hand, if you stop occasionally and look down through the trees, you see the forest from a unique and interesting perspective. When I turned left on Byrne Trail, it felt like a superhighway, and the rest of the walk was downhill all the way. This left turn on Byrne gave me access to the new single-track Leonard Bartle Trail and the Cathedral Rest Spot.
One feature I haven’t seen is the Great White Redwood Tree, a 250-foot-high, 1000-year-old tree at the end of the Milliron Trail. When I tried to visit it a few years ago, the trail was barely passable, but a fellow hiker said that the trail has been improved. If you get there, let me know if it is worth an out-and-back trek.
One place I did reach at the end of the hike was the Corralitos Market and Sausage Company. It was worth a stop. I enjoyed a gourmet meal consisting of a Cheesy Bavarian sandwich with fresh tomatoes, onions, relish, ketchup, two kinds of mustard, and a big soft drink. Yes, it was good.
Bring a map. You can get one at www.landtrustsantacruz.org. Most trails and intersections have signs, but several trail loops create confusion. A compass is also helpful. (Thick forest blocks the sun.)
Bring water. I didn’t see any fountains.
Bring a mask. Use it when other people are close.
Dogs are welcome, but bring a leash and a poop bag.
Don’t bring a bicycle, motorized vehicle, or horse.
No fires, camping, or hunting allowed.
Reservations are not required, but it’s a good idea to sign in.
Drive south on San Jose-Soquel Road or Highway 17 to Highway 1 south toward Monterey. Exit on Freedom Boulevard (a slight right), then left over Highway 1 away from the ocean. Drive five miles to a left on Corralitos Road. Turn right at 1.8 miles (next to Corralitos Market) on Browns Valley Road. At 0.4 miles, cross the bridge and turn left at the T to stay on Browns Valley Road. At 0.8 miles, take a slight left to stay on Browns Valley Road. At this point, you’ll think you have gone far enough, but keep going for another 1.7 miles. Watch for a small sign on the left announcing the Roses of Yesterday and Today driveway. Follow signs to #809.
Drive very slowly (10 mph) for about a mile on a one-lane road. Watch the mirrors at blind turns. Be prepared to back up if necessary. California law says that the vehicle facing downhill must yield the right-of-way by backing up until the vehicle going uphill can pass.
Visitor parking is on the right. Register. Enjoy. Eat sausage.