Like British Columbia, Santa Cruz County is a mountain biking destination. But, while British Columbia recognizes mountain biking as a valid form of recreational tourism, Santa Cruz County falls short. Santa Cruz County has a history of unmet legitimate trails and bike parks usage, with the result being a network of illegal trails on the backside of the University of Santa Cruz, California (UCSC) and Henry Cowell, as well as mountain bikers poaching hiking-only trails in Wilder Ranch State Park, The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, (Nisene Marks), The Land of Medicine Buddha, Santa Cruz City’s Pogonip Park, and Delaveaga Park.
Parks with legal singletrack
The Land of Medicine Buddha is a monastery, and therefore privately owned. Up until three years ago, mountain bikers were allowed to ride through, as their property is adjacent to Nisene Marks. Unfortunately, a handful of mountain bikers disregarded the rules of no night-riding and quiet time consistently enough to ban all mountain bikers there forever.
Nisene Marks’ lower trails are bike-friendly, but the higher ones like Hoffman’s, Water Tower and West Ridge are illegal. On the other side of the Santa Rosalita Ridge, though, is the Soquel Demonstration Forest which is one of the few legal places in the Bay Area that offer technical yet legal singletrack.
Map of Nisene Marks
Recommended Ride: The lower trails like Aptos Creek trail are legal for mountain biking.
Santa Cruz City’s Pogonip Park has a history of being a hot-bed of heroin dens, with the resulting illegal fires, toxic hazards left as trash, crime, and the city’s resources spent, The Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MboSc), a non-profit that focuses on multi-use trail advocacy, rallied to get both Cal Fire and the City of Santa Cruz on board in developing a multi-use trail through the part of the park known as “Heroin Hill.” The resulting Emma McCrary Trail (EMT) is a testament to club, as well as to the outdoor enthusiasts willing to work with others to rid the park of such nefarious activities. This is the first trail built in Santa Cruz County since the University Connector Trail (U-Conn) went in 10 years ago. One can access that trail via Rin Conn in Pogonip, or via highway 9, but be aware that any trail on UCSC’s property, and the adjacent Henry Cowell State Park is illegal—and is degrading sensitive habitat.
Map of EMT at Pogonip Park
The Emma McCrary Trail to the U-Conn Trail to Chinquapin Road through Twin Gates into Wilder State Park. The re-routed Old Boar is some of the only, yet quality singletrack in that park.
Santa Cruz City’s Delaveaga Park has about three different trails of singletrack that one can string together to access the top of the park–’The Top of the World’– a world-famous disc golf course’s vista of the Pacific Ocean. Since one must cross the golf course to loop the run, one is encouraged to do an ‘out and back’ ride.
Map of Delaveaga Park
Redwood Lower Loop to Branciforte Creek Trail to the Corona Trail, which takes you to the Top of the World, and down the Corona Trail to the Enchanted Trail to the Delaveaga Upper Loop.
Soquel Demonstration Forest is considered a working forest—it’s used recreationally as well as harvested for lumber—and is the only one with any elevation gain (2200’). With a network of technical terrain crawling down the Santa Rosalita ridge towards San Jose, “Demo” is where the Santa Cruz Super Enduro holds its race and is used all year by Bay Area riders.
Map of Demo
Up Highland Way, right at Buzzard’s Lagoon. Follow the fire road up approximately 2 miles to access the Ridge Trail head. Follow Ridge trail to Saw Pit, and then back out and up Hihn’s Mill Road to Demo’s parking lot.
With Santa Cruz being just over the hill from the South Bay/Bay Area—and a booming population—our sleepy town is a destination spot for the Valley. Including the Coastal Redwoods, five different micro-climates, and obscenely gorgeous beaches is the lifestyle that any outdoor enthusiast craves. Because of these factors, many big-named bike companies call Santa Cruz home. The list entails:
- Santa Cruz Bicycles
- Fox Racing Shox
- Easton/Bell Sports
- Specialized (Morgan Hill)
- Kali Protectives (San Jose)
- Caletti Calfee
- Rock Lobster
- The dude near the pumptrack
With MboSC riding their momentum, and from the support of these bike companies, over 20 years worth of effort are finally culminating in the first legal MUT built in 10 years—the EMT. In addition to that success, the past few years have seen an explosion of pump tracks in Santa Cruz County.
Aptos Pump track—behind Epicenter Cycling—at 8035 Soquel Drive in Aptos. The bike shop worked with MboSC.
Capitola Pump track—Ozzie Dog Park Inc is leading the charge for the track on MacGregor Drive in Capitola. It has not broken ground yet.
Chanticleer Pump track—Chanticleer Park Neighbors worked with Scott Veach to build the track at 1975 Chanticleer Avenue, Santa Cruz.
Felton—Velocity Bike Park—the first of its kind in the area—it will include a pump track, dirt jumps, an air bag, and a flow trail. Planned on the Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center at 37 Conference Drive in Mt. Hermon, funds have already been allocated for the project and they are in the permit phase of developing the park.
Santa Cruz County Polo Grounds Park (Polo Grounds)—dug and maintained by locals like the A Team—it’s located at 2255 Huntington Drive, Aptos.
West Side Pump Track—Another Bike Shop and Santa Cruz Bicycles worked together to manifest this track on Ow Property. Conveniently across from Santa Cruz Bicycles is at 100 Western Drive in Santa Cruz.
Scotts Valley Pump track at Sky Park—being built this year with the help of the city of Scotts Valley, Cycle Sports and MboSC on Kings Village Road in Scotts Valley.
With only a handful of legitimate singletrack for Santa Cruz County and the South Bay — and with millions of outdoor-loving enthusiasts—MboSC has organized and began meeting that unmet need.
While MboSC has been around for over 10 years, it’s only been in the past five years that they’ve gained the momentum to create a mountain-bike friendly culture in Santa Cruz County with the success of the EMT, the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, and it’s off-shoot, the Santa Cruz Super Enduro. Mark Davidson, President of MboSC, said about the potential pump track in Scotts Valley,“it has always been a legal/insurance issue that needed to be resolved and that should happen very soon. We have to wait when PT contractor is in town and free, rent the equipment, and buy the dirt to get this done. Bell Sports and Fox Racing Shox have contributed financially to this project—thank you—but we are still raising funds. Scotts Valley Cycle Sport is hosting a drawing for a bike for donations to the pump track project. You can donate online or in person at Scotts Valley Cycle sport.” So, while we’ve created some momentum, we must continue getting traction through fundraisers, goodwill among different trail users, and sweat equity. And just like British Columbia, we won’t stop, because it don’t stop.
Joh Rathbun is an Action Sports Writer and Shine MTB Coach & Ride Guide. To stay up to date on West Coast events, or ride with her, like her Facebook page, or contact her at johrathbun.wix.com/freelancewriter