Trail

Redwood Grove Loop Trail and San Lorenzo River Trail, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

Santa Cruz, CA
Length: 1.20 mi.
Type: Lollipop

About This Trail

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ACTIVITIES: Hiking, photography, birding

LENGTH OF HIKES: 1.2 miles

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Lollipop (loop with an out and back stick)

DIFFICULTY OF TERRAIN: Easy

ELEVATION GAIN: 30 feet

PARKING FEE/PASS: $10

TOILETS: Yes

CHANGING TABLE: No

NURSING BENCHES: No

DOGS ALLOWED: No

BIKES/HORSES/MOTORS ON TRAIL: Horses are allowed on the portion of the trail at the end (after crossing the bridge)

CELL RECEPTION: Spotty

DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE: Yes

POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: There’s a river and railroad tracks run near the trail

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Swimsuits

If you find yourself in Santa Cruz, don’t miss this state park just a mere 20 minutes away from downtown. While there are longer hikes, the redwood loop is easy at less than a mile and is something most anyone can walk with ease. The ground is also soft, so this is a great place to let your new little walker get her hiking legs on. You might hike it fast if you’re babywearing and on the move. But why rush it? We suggest taking an hour or two to stand in awe of the huge forest. The tallest tree in the park is around 1,500 years old, stands 277 feet tall, and is about 16 feet wide, which means it would take a few family members to wrap your arms all the way around this one!

Keep your eye peeled for banana slugs and black-tailed deer. In quieter moments (if this ever happens with a toddler around) or early in the morning, you might spot coyotes and, if very lucky, the rare bobcat.

The nearly flat and wide trail takes you through a wonderful grove of huge picture-perfect redwoods. These skyscraping redwoods inspired some of California’s earliest redwood preservation efforts. Don’t worry about bringing along a tripod to get that family picture among these greats. Extremely friendly volunteers are all around offering interesting insights and ready to snap your picture.

What makes this special is not only the opportunity to walk among the 40 acres of big trees, but also the fact that you can play in the river traveling through the park. This is a special treat especially on a hot summer day. Keep an eye out for steelhead trout in the river. And if you really want to get the story on the fish, stop at the visitor center and check out the freshwater aquarium with an exhibit called “A Fish Tale” showing the life cycle of eggs from fry (young steelhead) to release.

While toddlers will love the giant trees, the train that goes chugging by is sure to get a big smile and some Thomas the Train enthusiasm. As you hike, you can hear the train approach and then in some spots pass overhead. Wave to the train riders and
then ride the train yourself later. You can take a train all the way to the Santa Cruz beach, but make sure you buy tickets ahead of time.

WHY IT’S A FAVORITE
“Big trees always make a place feel peaceful and relaxing to me, and this park is no exception, even if it’s filled with kids. The thick redwood needles and the lush undergrowth soften all the sounds. There is so much to do in this park. It’s easy to spend the entire day (or the entire weekend if you can manage to snag one of the  campsites) walking among the huge trees, wading the river, watching for banana slugs and other creatures in the undergrowth, even riding a steam train in the woods. If that’s not enough, you can take another train over the hill and down to the beach in Santa Cruz.” —RYAN IDRYO

INSIDER’S TIP
This is a popular park. The parking lot is big, and it can get full on summer weekends. If you plan to swim, note that the river gets wider the farther
downstream you go, and there are some nice swimming holes. Look on the map for Garden of Eden, Cable Car Beach, and Big Rock Hole.

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 30 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains Yes
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception Spotty
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles
No

Trail highlights

Creek / River, Shaded Hike, Visitor Center, and Wildlife Viewing

Trail Contributor

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Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.

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