The Trails of UCSC|
Neil Wiley

You donít have to attend college to enjoy these trails. Simply drive in on any weekend, park at the free North Remote parking lot, and bike, walk, or run on miles of all-weather trails. In the winter, the hard surfaces and gravel dry quickly. I hiked the North Campus Loop one day after a big rain, and didnít step in one mud hole. Itís good hiking in the summer, too, with lots of shade.

The North Campus Loop is a good place to start your explorations. Itís only 3.1 miles around the loop and relatively flat. The elevation runs from 810 to 1035 feet.

I saw many mountain bikers, a few runners, but no hikers. Perhaps that is because the trail doesnít offer much variety. It has many small redwoods and a few giants. I didnít see any scenic views, any waterfalls, or any wildlife.

It is, however, amazingly quiet, even though it is a short distance from the campus.

Getting there is half the fun. Drive down Highway 17, then west and north on Highway 1 toward Half Moon Bay. Turn right on Bay Drive. It becomes Coolidge, then McLaughlin.  Turn right on Heller. The road takes you into the North Remote parking lot. This lot offers free parking on weekends. During the week, youíll need a parking pass.

Driving up the hill to the campus presents great views of Santa Cruz County and Monterey Bay. Itís worth a stop, but watch out. The turnout is rough.

Hike or ride your bike to the far end of the parking lot. Go left on the fire road called West Road. Do not turn off this road to the left. (Itís a dead end.) Pass Fuel Break Road and North Fuel Break Road on the right. When you reach the four large tanks and Chinquapin Road, turn right. Turning left would take you on a longer walk to Wilder Ranch. Turn right on Fuel Break Road, and stay on this road. When it splits, take the left branch, which is Fuel Break Road. Pass Red Hill Road, then turn left on West Road back to the parking lot. Another option is to keep on Chinquapin to the U-con trail that will take you to the next-door county park, Pogonip. The trail offers some interesting views, old limekilns, and more variety in scenery.

Some cautions. This is a bikerís trail. Be alert, and stay to the right. Also, the signage is rather sparse on the main trails, and nonexistent on the single tracks. Itís easy to get lost. Whether you are walking or riding, I recommend getting David and Allison Dillerís book Mountain Biking Santa Cruz or a detailed map.

Enjoy.

 

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