Set the scene in Santa Cruz County

By: DogTrekker Staff
Wilder keeping it super cool in Santa Cruz. Photo by Celeste Cesena.
Wilder keeping it super cool in Santa Cruz. Photo by Celeste Cesena.

Just a short hop south of the Bay Area, Santa Cruz County is diverse and exceedingly dog-friendly. Variety is the name of the game when it comes to dog-friendly lodging and dining—as well as other options for a yappy, outdoor-centric getaway. Here are some suggestions to get tails a’wagging.

Explore downtown Santa Cruz. Not so long ago, dogs were banned from Pacific Avenue, the town’s boutique-lined “main drag.” Now it’s a different story, with leashed pets not only allowed to walk with you as you window shop, but accompany you inside many establishments. Don’t forget your clean-up bags!

Photo by Kim Williams.

Ogle the views (and the surfers). Numerous coastal access points offer bluff-top views of the surf and the wet-suited folks devotedly skimming the waves. East Cliff Parkway, between Pleasure Point and the Hook, overlooks a number of popular surf spots.

Go tidepooling. Your leashed dog is welcome to accompany you at Santa Maria Beach in the Live Oak area, where 19th Avenue meets the sea. Go during low tide to observe the many creatures stranded in nooks and crannies of the rock shelf along the shore.

Take a ride on a historic railroad. Roaring Camp Railroads offers dog- and family-friendly steam train excursions through the redwoods. Many special events throughout the year make for delightful multigenerational outings.

Take a hike. Byrne-Milliron Forest is a 400-acre Land Trust of Santa Cruz County property managed as a working forest and laced with dog-friendly trails (off-leash hiking for dogs with reliable recall is allowed). Another option is Pogonip, a 640-acre nature reserve/greenbelt with numerous dog-friendly trails. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is one of few state-run parks in California that allows dogs on some (but not all) trails. Another gem is Felton Covered Bridge Park, where the photo opps are as good as the picnic grounds are shady.

Chase some surf. Fifteen miles of Santa Cruz County’s 29 miles of beaches welcome canine visitors. One of the more interesting options is Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, a broad, sandy mile of sand at the base of a bluff offering wide-open views, picnic areas, a campground, interpretive center, fishing pier—and, curiously, the hull of a concrete freighter built in 1910 for World War I but never launched. In 1929, the ship was towed to its present location and used as an amusement center. The venture failed, the ship was stripped and its hulking corpse has sat there, stirring imaginations, ever since.


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