Just seven miles from downtown Santa Cruz, the town of Felton is headquarters for a scenic duck into the cool embrace of a redwood forest. If you’re traveling with children as well as the family pet, there’s no better way to do so than to hop on a dog-friendly train. Roaring Camp Railroads offers Redwood Forest Steam Train excursions in open-air cars on narrow-gauge tracks once used to haul giant redwood logs from the forest. It’s tons of fun on many levels—but hang onto your leash, as your four-legged companion is sure to be mega-excited.
The train choo-choos through a second-growth forest that is plenty impressive, as are the wooden trestles and 19th-century steam engines used to pull the trains from Roaring Camp up to Bear Mountain, where a picnic stop awaits. Many special events are staged throughout the year. Coming up: Brunch With Mom on May 13; Civil War battle reenactments May 26-28, Redwood Mountain Faire June 2-3, Hats Off to Dad June 17 and Great Train Robberies June 17 and Sept. 1-3. In addition, free “Kids’ Fare” and heritage events featuring everything from gold panning to blacksmithing are staged throughout the summer.
Dogs also are permitted on the railroad’s Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway excursions leading from Roaring Camp to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park, but as dogs aren’t allowed there or on the adjacent city beach, it’s not a particularly attractive option for DogTrekkers.
No kids along? Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton is (half-heartedly) calling your name. While leashed dogs are allowed in picnic areas, campgrounds and on some rewarding walking routes (Pipeline Road, Graham Hill Trail, Powder Mill Road and Meadow Trail) in the park’s lower section, they’re not permitted in the old-growth forest that is the preserve’s star attraction. Why? We have no doggone idea…just one of those frustrating California State Parks rules.
Another option near Felton: Loch Lomond Recreation Area, open daily March through Labor Day and weekends thereafter through mid-October, is a City of Santa Cruz Water Department site that offers a wide range of activities including boat rentals, picnicking, fishing and hiking. Leashed dogs are welcome at picnic areas and on all 12 miles of trails, but not in rental boats or in the water.
And two more: Felton Covered Bridge Park, great for photo ops, is a California State Historical Landmark and community park with playground, picnic tables and volleyball court. Then there’s the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, one of California’s wackiest roadside attractions. Here you can unleash your inner Sasquatch, kick your imagination into overdrive and buy some really kitschy Big Foot and Loch Ness Monster souvenirs. A line of wood-carved creatures stands outside the museum, while inside exhibits mix educational and pop-culture artifacts and memorabilia. Ask before you stroll inside with your pup; if it’s empty, you’ll likely be welcome, but if busy, she may have to wait in the car.
Photo Credit: @dcaccent