Santa Cruz County’s Offbeat Bounty

By: DogTrekker Staff
Dog in front of Land of Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz County

So you’ve been there, done that in Santa Cruz County, and now it’s time for something new. If you’re of a contemplative turn of mind, Land of Medicine Buddha, a privately owned “center for healing and developing a good heart” in Soquel, is sure to enchant and delight. While its focus is on group and personal retreats, the active Buddhist community welcomes pet owners to enjoy its scenic hiking trails ($5 donation requested; no public access on Saturdays).

The 2-mile Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail offers opportunity to meditate on transformation in a scenic outdoor setting signed with eight teachings, each station featuring a resting bench and marked with fluttering prayer flags. There’s also a stupa with a sign offering “special blessings for animals by following the Stupa Path.”

The 6.5-mile Enchanted Forest Loop traverses undulating terrain and entails making several choices at unmarked intersections. Printed maps are available at the visitor center, but it’s nevertheless wise to do some advance research, perhaps starting here. Should you want to spend the night or participate in a retreat, three dog-friendly rooms are available. That said, you must be accompanied by someone not participating in the retreat who is available to watch the dog at all times.

Vegetarian meals are offered at the retreat center, but if time is short and you want to continue on the spiritual path, travel a mile south to Capitola, where Dharma’s Restaurant, a vegetarian/organic oasis with a wide range of offerings, welcomes weary hikers on a dog-friendly deck.

For a private-land hiking option with a very different vibe, head to the luxury Chaminade Resort & Spa, where three lush nature trails wind through 300 acres of redwood and eucalyptus forests. The Red Trail (1.25 miles), Blue Trail (1.75 miles) and Green Trail (.5 miles) all take off from the main property. While you’re not obliged to buy anything, don’t forget your wallet, as offerings at dog-friendly The View (which has a Pooch Patio menu with lots of “yappetizers”) is sure to tempt.


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