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Around Santa Cruz - Redwoods

Roaring Camp California
  Roaring Camp Railroads – Just minutes out of Santa Cruz, Roaring Camp is situated in the redwoods, at the site of an 1880's logging camp. Before you board the train, kids can run around this historic settlement with a covered bridge, train depot, old schoolhouse, general store, and rusting old steam saw mill. Pan for gold, make candles, there's lots of grass and picnic tables, so bring your lunch.
roaring camp railroads redwood forest steam train
    Redwood Forest Steam Train – Ride on an authentic steam train from the 1890's. The ride, that lasts a little over an hour, goes through the coast redwoods to Bear Mountain, and returns to Roaring Camp.
    Santa Cruz Beach Train – Take a trip back in time, to 1875, when this train transported passengers from the beach at Santa Cruz, up to the redwoods. From Roaring Camp, ride the train down the Santa Cruz, it ends right at the Boardwalk (one hour each way). Tip: If you're staying in Santa Cruz, you can take the Beach Train from the Boardwalk to Roaring Camp, get out and run around for several hours, then return on the train to Santa Cruz.
      There are also seasonal trains, such as nighttime beach trains, ghost train, holiday lights train. Click here for the calendar.
  Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
    The coast redwoods are magical year round – ancient trees soaring high in the sky, bubbling creeks, bright yellow banana slugs on the ground. Henry Cowell is just a short drive from downtown Santa Cruz.
    Stop into the Visitor Center to learn more about the wildlife and geology of this area. Pick up a copy of the nature trail guide, then set out on the Redwood Grove Loop Trail.
    On the trail, kids will see The Giant, tallest tree in the grove, 270 ft (83 m) high. Go inside the still-living Fremont tree – it's quite roomy, but totally dark, so bring a flashlight (honeymooners used to sleep in the tree). And don't miss the albino redwood tree, "phantom of the forest" with white branches.
    Another fun trail for kids is the River Trail, which follows along the San Lorenzo River. Picnic tables are available in the park, bring your lunch.
    Tip: Stay on the trails, kids will not want itchy legs from a poison oak encounter.
  Big Basin Redwoods State Park
    Created in 1902 to preserve and protect coast redwoods (sawmill was close by), Big Basin is the oldest California state park.
    The weekend we visited Big Basin, park events celebrated state park founder citizens, such as Andrew P. Hill who said the trees are, "natural wonders of the world and should be saved for posterity."
    Nature Lodge – Visit this small museum to learn about the wildlife and geology of three different habitats in the park – redwood, evergreen and scrub forests, and life of the coast redwoods.
    Redwood Loop Nature Trail – A half mile trail is fun for everyone in the family (stroller-friendly), pick up the nature trail brochure at the start of the trail. "Father of the Forest" tree is about 1,800 years old, "Mother of the Forest" tree was originally the tallest tree, but the top of the tree broke off in a storm (a new trunk is growing up). Kids will have fun standing inside the Chimney Tree, hollowed out by fire, but still alive.
    Tip: Do not climb over fences in front of trees to take photos. Compacting earth around the base of the tree impacts health of the coast redwood.
    More trails – For another fun hike, take the Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls (shortest way to get to the falls, take the section of Sequoia Trail from North Escape Rd.) A hike for teens, the trail to Berry Creek Falls through ancient redwoods (8 miles round trip, 1800 ft. elevation gain).
    Picnic areas – Around the visitor center are numerous picnic areas, including the picnic loop up Gazos Creek Rd. The snack bar also has sandwiches, cold drinks, and ice cream.
    Campgrounds – Imagine what it likes to camp under old-growth redwoods! In summer, be sure to make camping reservations well in advance.
    Tips
    Big Basin is about a 45 min. drive from downtown Santa Cruz. In summer, come early in the day, as parking is limited.
    Before going out on the trail, use the restrooms around the visitor center, and in the campgrounds.
    Bring water, no trash cans along the trails, so pack out your trash.
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