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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.
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.
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