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More About Santa Cruz
For over 12,000 years, the Santa Cruz region has been home to Indigenous peoples. The area was originally inhabited by the Awaswas nation of the Ohlone people, whose language and tribal name reflected the region's natural features. Their tribe of around 1,000 people thrived in the territory stretching from modern-day Davenport to Rio Del Mar until the arrival of Spanish colonists in the late 1700s. Though their language is now extinct, some remnants exist in local place names like Aptos, Soquel, and Zayante.
Despite disease and displacement after colonization, the Indigenous Uypi tribe of the Awaswas-speaking group still called the area Aulinta, meaning "place of the olivas." Santa Cruz was incorporated as a California town in 1866 and its first charter as a city followed in 1876. After governance under various Mayors, Councils, and Commissioners, the city adopted a Council-Manager government system in 1948 that remains in place today. Throughout its complex history of fires, earthquakes, and fluctuating economies, Santa Cruz has maintained its reputation as a vibrant, thriving beach town with a rich cultural heritage.
Parks & Beaches
Santa Cruz offers an impressive diversity of parks, beaches, and open spaces for all to enjoy. Pause in awe at the stunning vistas from Pogonip or catch world-class surfing at the iconic Lighthouse Field. The one-of-a-kind disc golf course at DeLaveaga challenges players of all skill levels. Get air at the skate parks and pump tracks or play bocce ball and ping pong at local parks. After a stroll along the historic Santa Cruz Wharf, visit the premier beaches at Main and Cowell. For those who have yet to explore the wealth of Santa Cruz parks, beaches, and open spaces, we encourage you to embark on an adventure. To find off-leash areas for you and your dog, learn more about dog-friendly parks in Santa Cruz.
The City has approved the Parks Master Plan 2030, which provides recommendations to enhance the City's parks, recreation facilities, open spaces, and beaches over the next 15 years. The Parks and Recreation Department partnered with the landscape architecture and planning firm Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey to develop the plan. Together, they assessed current conditions, analyzed trends, conducted public outreach for feedback, and identified actions and funding opportunities to improve the city's parks and recreation system based on community input. The plan will guide the City's priorities and investments in parks and recreation for the next 15 years.
Parks Master Plan 2030:
Pogonip, a scenic 640-acre expanse of open meadows, woodlands, and creeks, offers a 1-mile multi-use trail open to bicyclists and equestrians in its northernmost section. This trail connects Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Pogonip, and UC Santa Cruz campus lands. Bicycles and horses are prohibited on all other Pogonip trails.
Pogonip has several walk-in entrances but no on-site parking. Visitors can park on Golf Club Drive just west of Highway 9 and walk to the main gate. Additional parking is available near the Harvey West Park entrance and the Spring Street entrance, though parking is limited in the residential area there.
Pogonip is an inspiring natural refuge located near the urban center of Santa Cruz. Though not untouched wilderness, as much of the landscape has been altered over the past 150 years, this habitat remains uniquely valuable for its proximity to the city. A testament to nature's resilience, Pogonip survives as an enchanting retreat of natural beauty. Today, the park is protected as part of the city's Greenbelt properties, purchased in 1988 with funding from the CALPAW State Bond Act.
Pogonip's diverse habitats support abundant wildlife. Mixed evergreen and upland redwood forests, stands of oak, and riparian woodlands create wooded areas where Pacific giant salamanders, California newts, and banana slugs thrive. The meadows and prairies host prairie clover, popcorn flowers, and rare Ohlone tiger beetles. Mammals like jackrabbits, ground squirrels, deer, coyotes, and bobcats roam the grasslands while bats inhabit both forests and open areas. Numerous resident and migratory bird species are also found at Pogonip, including owls, bluebirds, meadowlarks, chickadees, woodpeckers, and hawks. Reptiles like alligator lizards, fence lizards, and garter snakes favor the meadows and prairies. Though mountain lions have been spotted, Pogonip provides a refuge for wildlife amidst urban areas.
Pogonip has a rich history stretching back thousands of years. The land was originally home to Ohlone tribes for over 5,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in the 1700s. After the founding of the Santa Cruz Mission in 1791 and Mexican control in the 1800s, the Ohlone population dramatically declined due to epidemics and persecution from immigrants. Though no prehistoric sites have been found, Native Americans likely used Pogonip's abundant resources.
In the mid-1800s, logging operations decimated the old-growth redwoods, leaving only three virgin redwoods standing today. The redwoods were used as fuel for limestone kilns, and segments of the Rincon and Spring Trails originated as roads connecting the timber, quarries, and kilns. Though now a park, Pogonip was once part of the Cowell Ranch, purchased for lime and timber. As resources were depleted in the early 1900s, the land transitioned to livestock operations. In 1961, part of the ranch was sold to UC Santa Cruz, and the remainder became Pogonip.
For a time, Pogonip was home to a golf course and polo fields, attracting celebrities and champion players. Led by Dorothy Deming Wheeler, Pogonip hosted pioneering coed polo matches. During World War II, the facilities briefly served as a rehabilitation center before reopening as a private club in 1948. While rich in history, today the unsafe clubhouse remains closed to the public.
The paved multi-use trail along Arana Gulch runs less than half a mile, connecting Agnes Street to the upper harbor and allowing hiking and biking. Additional dirt hiking trails loop around the meadows, spanning from the Hagemann Bridge to the harbor entrance and from the harbor entrance to Agnes Street. Bicycling is prohibited on these unpaved trails. Please stay on marked paths to avoid damaging the sensitive habitat.
Here's your Trail Map!
Arana Gulch provides valuable habitat, including wetlands, central coast riparian scrub, central coast live oak riparian forest, and coastal terrace prairie. Approximately one-third of the area consists of wetlands, mainly found along the Arana Creek floodplain on the eastern boundary. Additional seasonal freshwater wetlands dot the upper grasslands.
Arana Gulch remains one of the few sites in the county still home to the endangered Santa Cruz tar plant. While the tar plant was once widespread here, its numbers declined with the loss of grazing. In recent years, cooperative efforts between the City of Santa Cruz, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Native Plant Society, and dedicated volunteers have successfully recovered the tar plant population.
DOG REGULATIONS: Dogs must be on a leash at all times and are allowed on all trails except for the Marsh Vista Trail. Arana Gulch features sensitive habitat areas that can be damaged by dogs. Please be courteous and clean up after your pet.
PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES: Smoking or fires, camping, alcohol, wood gathering, collection of plants or animals, archery/hunting.
Frederick Street @ Broadway
Agnes Street @ Mentel Avenue
7th Avenue @ Brommer Street.
PARKING: No on-site parking
Agnes Street - On-street parking on Agnes Street
Upper Harbor - Trail entrance to Arana Gulch located along the western boundary of the harbor storage yard
The City of Santa Cruz acquired Moore Creek Preserve, previously known as the Bombay Property, in 1998. The property features high-quality habitats such as wildflower fields, coastal prairie, rare coast live oaks, and riparian forests. Several threatened and endangered wildlife and plant species inhabit the Preserve, including the red-legged frog, Ohlone tiger beetle, and San Francisco popcorn flower. Funding to purchase the Preserve came from a 1998 bond measure, City funds, and State grants. Management of Moore Creek Preserve is a cooperative effort between the City of Santa Cruz and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, with the Land Trust managing a conservation easement for the State of California.
This 246-acre City greenbelt land offers hiking trails through open meadows with scenic views of Monterey Bay. Because of the sensitive resources within the Preserve, public use is limited to hiking only. Bicycles and dogs are prohibited at all times. Cattle are grazed on the Preserve to benefit native plant and animal species and to reduce fire hazards.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Summer (April through October) Sunrise to 7 p.m.
Winter (November through March) Sunrise to 4 p.m.
TRAILS: Trails within the Preserve are relatively limited (approximately 2½ miles round trip). Trails are open to hiking only. Dogs and bicycles are prohibited. Trails are not accessible for wheelchair use.
Moore Creek Preserve has two walk-in entrances. There is no on-site parking. One entrance is located on the north side of Highway 1, across from Shaffer Road. The other entrance is located at the end of Meder Street. There is no parking on Meder Street to the west of Western Drive.
For a copy of a trail map, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 831-420-5270.
DOG REGULATIONS: Dogs are prohibited at all times.
PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES: Smoking, fires, camping, alcohol, littering, wood gathering, collection of plants and animals, archery/hunting.
PARKING/ENTRANCES: No on-site parking.
Highway 1 at Shaffer Road
Limited on-street parking on south side of Highway 1
Access to approximately 2 ½ miles of trails (round-trip)
No parking to the west of Western Drive
Existing trail access very limited (one ¼ mile trail)
Beach Flats Park, Bethany Curve, Branciforte Dog Park, Central Park, El Portal Park, Frederick Street Park, Garfield Park, Grant Park, John D. Franks Park, La Barranca Park, Laurel Park, Lighthouse Avenue Park, Mimi de Marta Park, Mission Plaza, Moore Creek Overlook, Neary Lagoon Park, Ocean View Park, Pacheco Dog Park, Poets Park and Beach Flats Community Garden, Rincon Park, Riverside Gardens Park, Round Tree Park, Scope Park, Sgt. Derby Park
Star of the Sea Park, Town Clock, Trescony Park, Tyrrell Park, University Terrace Park, Westlake Park, Westside Pump Track.
DeLaveaga Park-Lower DeLaveaga Park, George Washington Grove, Audrey Stanley Grove, DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course, and DeLaveaga Archery Range, Depot Park, Funspot Bike Park, & Scott Kennedy Fields, Harvey West Park, Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park at Mike Fox Park, San Lorenzo Park, West Cliff
DeLaveaga Golf Course
Arana Gulch Open Space, Arroyo Seco Canyon, DeLaveaga Park Wilderness Area, Jessie Street Marsh, Moore Creek Preserve, Neary Lagoon Wildlife Refuge, Pogonip Open Space
Beaches and Wharf
Cowell Beach, Its Beach (Partially-owned), Main Beach, Mitchell’s Cove
Beach Flats Community Center, Carmelita Cottages Citizens Opportunity (222 Market)
Civic Auditorium, DeLaveaga Park-Audrey Stanley Grove, DeLaveaga Park- DeLaveaga Archery Range, DeLaveaga Park-DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course, DeLaveaga Golf Course, Depot Park Freight Building, Harvey West Park-Kids Kottage and Wagner Cottage, Harvey West Pool, Harvey West Scout and Clubhouse, Louden Nelson Community Center, Museum of Natural History, Pogonip Clubhouse, Santa Cruz Wharf, San Lorenzo Park Lawn Bowling, Senior Citizens Opportunity at 222 Market St., Surfing Museum
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a legendary seaside amusement park, promises visitors rides, games, and nonstop fun this season. Thrill-seekers can ride the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and Looff Carousel, two National Historic Landmarks. Family rides, kiddie rides, and over 300 new and vintage arcade games also await. Visitors can play mini-golf at Neptune's Kingdom, battle it out in laser tag, or head to the nearby Boardwalk Bowl. Those looking to learn about the park's history can take a self-guided walking tour or visit the free Boardwalk Historium exhibit on the second floor of Neptune's Kingdom, which contains photographs and memorabilia spanning the Boardwalk's first 100 years.
The wide beaches and splashable waves of Santa Cruz provide an inviting backdrop, and the colorful boardwalk with rides, games, and music makes resisting nearly impossible. Since debuting in 1907, the popular Santa Cruz Boardwalk has been a summertime staple for families. Today, the entire boardwalk is a designated California Historic Landmark—and two of its rides carry the prestigious title of National Historic Landmarks.
The Giant Dipper, a classic wooden rollercoaster that first opened in 1924, remains the star attraction, delivering screams and thrills for decades. But it now shares the spotlight with modern marvels like the 125-foot Double Shot tower for adrenaline seekers. For tamer tastes, there's the meticulously restored 1911 Looff carousel with its hand-carved horses. Indoors, the massive arcade offers laser tag, mini-golf, skeeball, and endless video games, while dining runs from corn dogs to regional craft beers at Brews on the Beach.
Don't miss the panoramic views from the overhead Sky Glider funicular. Check events for fun activities like free beach movies and concerts. Nearby hotels like the retro Hotel Paradox or Ocean View Sea & Sand Inn make longer stays easy.
Voted the best seaside amusement park in the world, the park offers over 40 rides and attractions that guests can enjoy daily during the summer and on weekends and select weekdays in the spring and fall. The park also features Winter Wonderland during the winter months and the largest arcade in the country, which is open daily year-round.
The inviting wide beach and splashable waves of Santa Cruz, coupled with the lively boardwalk featuring rides, games, and music, make it hard to resist a visit. This popular seaside amusement park has drawn families in summertime tradition since opening in 1907. Today, the entire Santa Cruz Boardwalk is a designated California Historic Landmark, with two of its rides attaining National Historic Landmark status—most notably the Giant Dipper wooden rollercoaster, which has thrilled and terrified riders since its debut in 1924.
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: (831) 423-5590
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Santa Cruz City Schools district serves nearly 6,660 students across Santa Cruz County, from Davenport to Soquel. It is comprised of two districts governed by a shared Board of Education and administrative staff. The elementary district contains five schools with around 2,000 students, including a Dual Immersion Program. The secondary district has two middle schools, three comprehensive high schools, a continuation school, an independent studies program, and a home school program with approximately 4,660 students.
Nestled on Monterey Bay in northern California, Santa Cruz is home to the esteemed University of California campus and a small yet vibrant community of 54,600 residents. With its scenic beaches, rolling hills, and thriving arts scene, this seaside city offers countless attractions for visitors and locals alike. The Santa Cruz City School District aims to prepare all students for college and career success while closing persistent achievement gaps between demographic groups.
Elementary Schools: Bay View Elementary, DeLaveaga Elementary, Gault Elementary, Westlake Elementary
Middle Schools: Branciforte Middle School, Mission Hill Middle School
Comprehensive High Schools: Harbor High School, Santa Cruz High School, Soquel High School
PreKindergarten: Bay View Elementary, DeLaveaga Elementary, Gault Elementary, Westlake Elementary
Continuation High School: Costanoa
Alternative Elementary School: Monarch, K-6
Independent Studies Program: Ark Independent Studies
Home School Program: Alternative Family Education
7000 Students, K-12
420 Certificated teachers, librarians, administrators
300 Classified staff
Santa Cruz County population: 262,382
Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult School
319 La Fonda Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca 95062
Main Phone: (831) 786-2160
Dir. Adult Education: Nancy Bilicich
Branciforte Middle School
315 Poplar Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca 95062
Main Phone: 831-429-3883
Principal: Debbi Puente
Asst. Principal: Sue Moen
Assistant: Lisa Orozco
Mission Hill Middle School
425 King St. Santa Cruz, Ca 95060
Main Phone: 831-429-3860
Principal: Derek Kendall
Asst. Principal: Sara Norris
Assistant: Amrik Nijor
Harbor High School
300 La Fonda Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca 95062
Main Phone: 429-3810
Santa Cruz High School
415 Walnut Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca 95060
Main Phone: 831-429-3960
Principal: Michelle Poirer
Asst. Principal: Casey Denning
Asst. Principal: Amine Bouchti
Assistant: Anna Miller
Soquel High School
401 Old San Jose Rd. Soquel, Ca 95073
Main Phone: 831-429-3909
Branciforte Small Schools
840 N. Branciforte Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca 95062
Main Phone: 831-429-3898
Monarch Elementary School
Costanoa High School
ARK Independent Study
Alternative Family Education
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