Up to the top of the world
DeLaveaga Park

Neil Wiley

There is a short but moderately challenging trail for hikers, dog walkers, and mountain- bike riders less than a half-hour away. Although the trail is unmarked and not officially named, this three-mile, out-and-back single-track trail takes you to Corona Lookout, known to Santa Cruz locals as Top of the World.

Itís worth the trip up for a nice view of Monterey Bay. After all, itís only a mile-and-a half long. It isnít far to the top, and the climb is moderate, even level in many sections. Most of the way is in shade. Sounds good.

There are, however, some challenges. First, itís unmarked, so itís difficult to find. The nice trees come with not-nice roots that criss-cross many sections of the trail. You encounter many ditches, holes, bumps, and other obstacles. If you are a hiker, you had better lift your feet. If you are a biker, youíll need to maintain control at slow speeds. And donít expect to sit down.

For days after rain, the trail has many mud holes and "slippery-slidey" areas. It can be a good walk or ride, but you may get dirty or even fall down. Some people call this fun; others call it something else. I call it a good trail. I like single-track trails more than roads. You feel more like you are "in" the environment, especially in forest. The shade is deeper. You disturb less, becoming part of the scene. Even the obstacles are good, because they keep you aware. Itís living in the moment.

This trail offers some variety, too. Youíll see many species of trees and plants, from redwoods and ferns to strange little trees and wildflowers. Just about the time you get tired of dark forest, you pass through an open meadow filled with sun above and green grass below. And then there is the view from Top of the World. Close by, you may see the disk (Frisbeeģ) golfers flipping their lids. Beyond them, your view may include the plumes from the stacks at Moss Landing, the shimmering waves of Monterey Bay, and the dark blue mountains behind Monterey and Pacific Grove. After all that climbing through dark shade, you can watch the view from a nice big bench in bright, warm sun. Yes, itís a nice prize at the end of a good walk, run, or ride.

Finding the trail

First, you must find DeLaveaga Park. If you havenít been there, you may find the directions confusing. Drive down Highway 17, turn right onto Mt. Hermon Road, and then right again at the first traffic light, Glen Canyon Road. Go under the freeway, and stay on the right to continue on Glen Canyon Road. At the three-mile mark, turn left at the intersection with Branciforte Drive. Watch for the park sign on the right at 850 Branciforte Drive.

If you know where to look, the trailhead is easy to find. As you enter the park, watch for the restrooms on the right, just beyond the first group of picnic areas. Youíll see a set of stairs and a small bridge. Park in any of the nearby parking areas.

Cross the bridge and take the trail up and south to the right. When you come to an intersection of trail, turn left at the hairpin turn to go north. You are now on the trail to Top of the World.

If at the intersection, you took the trail uphill, you would climb 3/10 of a mile up a wide but relatively steep trail that dead ends at the DeLaveaga golf course. (Crossing the golf course is a no-no.)

Back at the bridge, near the restrooms, if you turned left rather than right, you would follow a lower trail north behind and around the softball diamonds. This is a relatively easy, flat trail that takes you to the northern parking area.

Hereís another option. At the same intersection of three trails, turning right (south) takes you on a lower loop trail that wanders through the woods close to the road. At 6/10 of a mile, a sharp hairpin turn brings you to Sand Pit Road. Turning left on this fire road will loop you back to your starting place.

I hate to admit it, but non-hikers can also visit Top of the World by driving on Glen Canyon Road to Branciforte, then turning right (south) to Goss, left on Goss, and left again on Upper Park Road to the disk-golf parking area. Itís a short walk up through the disk-golf course to Top of the World. It doesnít seem fair, but itís an option.

The trails are open to hikers, bicyclists, and dogs on leash. A non-leash area is also available.

There are more than trails at DeLaveaga. Children can play on the playground equipment. Adults can play on the golf and disk-golf courses. An archery range is open on weekend afternoons. Picnic areas, complete with barbecue grills and tables, and ball fields are available for groups. Some can be reserved; others are first come, first served. Facilities include restrooms, drinking fountain, and phone.

If you are looking for a short drive to a challenging run, walk, or ride, go for it. You can be on Top of the World.

For more information, visit City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation at their website www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/pr/parksrec/parks/delapark.html, or call 831-420-5270.



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