Neil Wiley

Sometimes a hike is simply exercise. Sometimes it’s more. A short walk through the Land of Medicine Buddha is more. The redwoods are familiar, but Santa Cruz Mountain trails rarely display sacred monuments in bright reds, yellows, and blues. You don’t often see prayer wheels turning, and prayer flags flapping in the wind. You hardly ever hear huge gongs sounding.

To my western eyes and ears, it all seemed strange yet calming. I was only a few miles from home, yet I felt like I was walking on a Tibetan path. And in some respects, I was. I was walking the Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail in the Land of Medicine Buddha.

Open to the public, this trail offers a peaceful walk through redwood forest. As you walk along the trail, you find eight sites where you can sit, rest, and contemplate. Each location includes a teak bench, landscaping, and a small sign that carries a verse and commentary by His Holiness the Dali Lama.

Reading these ancient texts may not change your life, but at the least, they encourage you to think about your relationships with others, and perhaps, your place in the universe. Pretty heady stuff for a walk in the woods.

Along the path between verses four and five, a small sign indicates a trail to the enchanted forest in Nisene Marks Park. Also called Marcel’s Forest, this area includes a 1.1-mile, old-growth loop trail where you’ll find a grove of redwoods twisted in unusual curves, a large colony of tiger lilies, and the largest redwood in Nisene Marks Park. This tree, the “Advocate,” is 45 feet in circumference. For more information, visit, click on hikes and other explorations, then click on Nisene Marks (Marcel’s Forest).

How to reach Land of Medicine Buddha
It’s an easy half-hour drive from Summit Road southeast to San Jose-Soquel Road, and down to Soquel Drive. Turn left on Soquel, then left again on Main Street. Stay on Main until it merges into Glenhaven Road. Turn right in about half a mile on Prescott Road. Follow Prescott to the end of the road, cross the wooden bridge, turn left, and follow the signs to the Land of Medicine Buddha.

How to reach the
Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail
The trail is open to the public during daylight hours. Park just past the entrance. Walk past the reception-office bookstore and big prayer wheel. (You might wish to turn the wheel; go ahead.) Continue uphill on a paved road. Watch for triangular signs marking the trail. At an intersection of two roads, you’ll see a small “trails” sign that points to the right. Ignore this sign, and stay on the left branch of the road. The road winds up to a large hilltop meadow of prayer flags, indicating the planned “100,000 Stupa Project.” Continue uphill on the main road to the Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail. The trail loops back to the center.

Although the hike is free, you can make a donation for upkeep of the trail at the bookstore. The reception desk and bookstore are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday through Monday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday.

For more information, visit, or call 831-462-8383.