Moore Creek Preserve

Neil Wiley

Moore Creek Preserve is so new that bent grass is the only sign for many trails. Opened to the public April 11, the new City of Santa Cruz park provides 246 acres of open meadows with scenic views of Monterey Bay.

Something new

Only a few trails are open so far. The main trail, Prairie View, takes you from the Shaffer Road/Highway 1 entrance up a marine terrace with relatively gentle slopes to the upper elevations. Several loop trails extend the walk. A second entrance from Meder Street on the east side of the park offers only a one-quarter mile trail and no parking. Although a trail between the Meder Street trail and the rest of the park was not available for my hike, plans call for a connection later in the year.

Walking in a pasture

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, my happiest adventures involved walking through the pastures of our family farms in Missouri. If you lifted one end of that Missouri pasture to a slope of about thirty degrees, removed most of the trees and added an ocean view, it was like old times, complete with large meadows, meadow muffins, cow paths, a large herd of cattle and at least one resident coyote.

The preserve has few trees, little shade and a strong wind off the ocean. With little cover, weather conditions are important. Through good luck, I picked a perfect day for my hike. As I climbed the hill, the ocean breeze kept me cool, while the sun warmed my back.

The breeze created waves of wind-blown grass sprinkled with yellow, orange and purple wildflowers. Looking closer, I saw big, rough slabs of rust-colored rock half-buried in the ground.

A coyote trotted by, all but his head hidden in the tall grass. Darting meadow birds dove down to catch unwary insects. And higher, much higher, large raptors soared on the uplifting thermals.

The large herd of cattle paid me little attention, but as I got closer, the wary lead cow moved the herd slowly but surely away to a cow’s idea of a safe distance. Respecting their size, number and value as lawnmowers, I took the Terrace Loop Trail around the herd, ending up on the Vernal Ridge Trail, another loop that brought me to a small meadow surrounded by ancient oaks. The trail all but disappeared, but the area was so open that there was little chance of getting lost.

The walk back down provided continuing views of the ocean. Although I couldn’t find a marker for the Coast Vista Trail, I found some especially good viewing spots to the left of the trail. I could see the arch of Natural Bridges, the new paved bicycle path paralleling Highway 1 from Shaffer Road to Wilder Ranch, and lots of new construction between Highway 1 and the ocean.

Moore Creek Preserve trails are open to hikers only. No dogs or bicycles are allowed. No facilities are available. You can park on the street across Highway 1 on Shaffer Road. For a trail map, call Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation, 831-420-5270.


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