West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path

California

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West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path Facts

States: California
Counties: Santa Cruz
Length: 3.4 miles
Trail end points: Swanton Blvd. and W. Cliff Dr. and Santa Cruz Riverwalk at Beach St.
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 7230965
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

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West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path Description

The West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path is just over 3 miles long, but, with its gorgeous backdrop of ocean waves and dramatic cliffs, you'll wish it was longer. The fairly flat, paved trail winds its way along the southern coastline of Santa Cruz. It begins at the Santa Cruz Riverwalk and travels west along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a popular seaside amusement park, and the Santa Cruz Wharf, a tourist hub offering fishing, boating, dining and shopping opportunities, as well as beach access. (Cyclists must dismount their bikes along this busy stretch.)

Continuing west along the south side of West Cliff Drive, you'll reach Lighthouse Field State Beach about a mile after the Wharf. The beach is home to a surfing museum in addition to the historic lighthouse. Here, you'll also find Steamer Lane, a popular surfing spot, and a prime place to view sea lions on the offshore rocks.

The trail ends at Natural Bridges State Park with its picturesque namesake rock formation. Along the park's beach, be sure to look for sea birds, whales, seals and otters. And, at low tide, explore the tide pools for sea stars, crabs and sea anemones. If you're in the area between mid-October and late January, you'll also be treated to the spectacular sight of thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate here during the winter and rest in the park's eucalyptus grove.

Parking and Trail Access

At the eastern end of the trail, paid parking is available at the Santa Cruz Wharf. Farther west, free parking is available at Lighthouse Field State Beach (off West Cliff Drive) and on Swanton Boulevard adjacent to Natural Bridges State Park.

West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path Reviews

On a gray May morning in 2018, my wife and I headed north from Pacific Grove to ride the West Cliff Path. We parked on Swanton Blvd., which is pretty much right at the trailhead, and then headed down the smooth asphalt path/promenade.
The path has spectacular ocean views, plenty of benches to relax upon, restored Victorian homes, art installations, a surf museum, huge amounts of surfers, an extra long pier with a residence of sea lions, a multitude of photo ops, and even an amusement park when you reach the end.
At the trail's end consider continuing across the San Lorenzo River and navigating some quiet residential streets to get a better view of the Walton Lighthouse and look back up the coastline.
Even though we rode on a weekday morning, the path had quite a bit of use by walkers, joggers, dog walkers, amusement park goers, and surfers. It slows you down a bit, but that's OK since to ride this trail is all about the essence of the scenery!
With the exception of one hill as you descend the cliff down to sea level near the pier, it's all flat which is perfect for a couple of sixty somethings.
All in all, it's a path to be taken slowly and to be savored, an ideal experience!

Started the ride at Trader Joe’s parking lot along the Santa Cruz Riverwalk, rode downstream to the intersection with the West Cliff Drive trail. Then rode up the coast to the end of this trail. Trail in good condition and nice surface but lots & lots of other folks on the trail, mostly walkers. Great scenery of Santa Cruz bay, coastline, and surfers along the trail. So much traffic on the trail made it challenging. Once at end of trail decided it would be easier to ride the road. So on return trip stayed on the parallel road and sailed along without obstruction. Consider this as the return option.

I am using these trails for power walks and this was very nice. Just the right length. It was not as well marked as I had expected though very easy to figure out. Mostly runners and walkers, seemed a bit too crowded with foot traffic to be really enjoyable for bikes. I am not from the area so was surprised at the cool breeze but that just made me walk faster:)

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