o really see Santa Cruz, we'll start you on the west most entrance to town at the New Leaf Market and Beckman's Bakery complex. Here is where Hwy 1 from San Francisco becomes Mission St. Set back from the road, in a small shopping center this is where your ride will begin.

From the 2341 Mission St, complex you can head back toward San Francisco for a few miles to Wilder State Park, a well known oceanside mountain biking preserve. Further up the coast is the Swanton Loop which cuts inland from the coast on a deserted farm road that many a local road rider has made a part of his training regimen over the years. From the shpping center, you can even take a nine mile coastal trek up to Davenport, a once thriving oceanside town famous for the migrating grey whales which pass nearby, visit the jail there, even have breakfast, lunch or dinner at the renowned Davenport Cash Store.

In addition to Wilder State Park, there is also off-road stuff behind UCSC (noted below), and at Henry Cowell Park. Even the legendary Big Basin, with some of the oldest redwood trees in the world, up in the San Lorenzo Valley, 12 miles away, features a trail that one can use to drop all the way down to the ocean.

From New Leaf Market, to see the town of Santa Cruz and its festive oceanside sisters of Capitola and Aptos, turn right on the street behind the center's parking lot to the first left on Swift St. where the ocean will be about 3/4 of a mile in front of you. Once at the water, a right turn and a mile of riding along the ocean cliffs will take you to Natural Bridges while a left turn will let you enjoy a four-mile long, safe but weekend crowded bike path. You will ride past world class surfing, a Lighthouse complete with museum and beaches filled with dogs and drums and merriment.

Before you go down the hill to the the famed Boardwalk amusement park which, by the way, has the oldest wooden roller coaster on the entire west coast., a left turn on Bay Avenue will take you two miles later to one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world. The University of California at Santa Cruz, set in a redwood grove and flanked by cow pasture will reward you with breathtaking, panoramic views of the majestic Monterey Bay Area.

Here you can also enjoy one of the most awe-inspiring bike paths in all the world. As somewhat of an engineering marvel, it is about two miles one-way going down and one-way going up, Crafted in and around the bluffs, the climb is far gentler than the descent!

Back in town, at the bottom of the small hill, just before you reach the Boardwalk a right turn will take you nearly a mile out on the pier (named the Santa Cruz Wharf for some reason) which features restaurants such as Gilda's and Stagnaros, both charter NBG supporters. The Dolphin restaurant, at the end of the wharf also boasts great views of the ocean as well as great food. Here you can also enjoy curious pelicans, barking seals and crab cocktail treats.

If a hostel night's stay is on your mind, instead of a right on to the wharf, going straight along the ocean for another block to a left up the short hill on Main St will take you to the charming Carmelita Cottages at 321 Main St. If you're in town, they can be reached at 423-8304. They now take reservations as well as accept credit cards.

If you want to visit downtown Santa Cruz, instead of a right on to the wharf, a left for a block on Center St., a right at the stop sign on Front St to the first left on Pacific for three blocks to a left on Maple St will take you to a Santa Cruz fixture just after you make your right on the next block at Cedar St, The Bagelry. A block more on lightly traveled city streets will take you to the Cafe Pergolesi, a coffeehouse set in a beautiful old Victorian house. Here you can sit in its surrounding gardens and watch your bike as the world goes by.

From Cedar, take a right on Cathcart past Spokesman Bicycles to a left on the next block on to Pacific Ave. Ahead of you on your right is the downtown New Leaf Market and just beyond that is the six story Palomar Inn which features a great Mexican restaurant by the same name. On the way in, the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. will also tempt you to stop and sample their wares. Many other shops, food kiosks and other eateries all along Pacific Ave. will tempt you in the same way.

At the vacant lot on the left, bare because of the Loma Prieta earthquake, you will find Cooper St. Take a right to Front St where a quick left into the driveway will bring you into the mammoth Longs/Trader Joes shopping center complex. Here if you didn't stop at New Leaf, you can also shop for a picnic lunch.

(See Santa Cruz Sentinel story)

Ride through the parking lot for a short ways to the San Lorenzo river levee that is just behind the shopping complex here. A left will take you a few hundred yards up to Water St. Another left and few blocks more will take you up a short hill to the birthplace of Santa Cruz, Mission Santa Cruz, where you can enjoy their beautiful picnic grounds or take a self guided tour.

Going back to the San Lorenzo River, a right will take you for another mile or so to a one way road (it runs adjacent to the river and one lane of it as well as the bike path was washed out by flooding) that stops at Second St.. Turn left on this narrow street for a block to a right on Riverside, a left would have taken you over a short bridge to the other side of the river. The Boardwalk is straight ahead.

At the Boardwalk you can park your bike and play, (they don't let you into the park with a bike and it is somewhat unsafe outside so you might want to think twice about this one. A better option is to backtrack a short ways to the adjacent main beach where you can lock your bike to the guardrails along the seawall), have lunch at the Beach Street Cafe, an NBG supporter (where your bike is visible), or keep heading south and cross the San Lorenzo river on the train trestle walkway. Once you get back out to the street, on Murray St., bear right. Less than half a mile will take you to a stoplight and the Seabright business district. Here you will find the award winning Seabright Brewery, where the Santa Cruz social scene congregates around some of the best beer in the world.

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Another mile away, up Seabright, is 24 Hour Fitness health club. The best way to get there and maybe get a hot tub and a soak for 10 bucks, is to use the neighborhood streets to either the left or right of Seabright Ave. (at this point it is narrow and there are no more bike lanes on Seabright Ave.). For example, you can turn left a long block away from the small business district on to Pine St., take your first right on Cayuga which you will follow to Soquel where a right and the first left will put you back on Seabright for a short block to Water St. Here you will turn right and find the fitness center just ahead of you.

You can even take a three mile detour to the world famous Mystery Spot up beautiful Branciforte Drive, where as they say, "Gravity is defied every day". In addition, B40, as it is referred to by the locals, is one of the best bicycle roads you will find anywhere. To get there, follow Poplar, which runs east from 24 Hour Fitness, until it ends at Fairmount Drive where you will turn left. After a few more blocks, you will make a right where Fairmount stops on North Branciforte. Cross over the freeway and make your first left on Goss Ave. At the bottom of this short street, a right turn will take you on to the true country part of Branciforte Drive.

Once on B40, you will gently roll up and down past hidden county parks, country estates and apple orchards for nearly seven miles before the riding gives way to the tree canopied climbing of Mountain View Drive. You can climb it up and over to San Jose Rd and the town of Soquel or take a right at the top on Rodeo Gulch for a little more climbing before you cascade down to Soquel Drive. Here a left will take you to downtown Soquel or a right will return you about five miles later to the center of Santa Cruz.

If you never left the Seabright area business district, you can head toward the ocean where you will find another option for a night's lodging at the charming Black Pearl Cottage. Reverse your direction back to Murray (the first light), make a right and soon you will cross over the Santa Cruz Harbor where you will take an immediate right on Lake St. At the end of Lake, within view and adjacent to blue tarpaulin covered yachts and other pleasure craft, is a small shopping village.

Santa Cruz Union of Bent Bicyclists

A left at the ocean on E. Cliff will soon take you up a short hill and a few miles later to 17th Ave. where you'll make a right back toward the ocean. A block later, your left will find you back on E. Cliff (continuing straight at 17th would have put you on Portola which would be less scenic but still get you where you are headed). Follow E. Cliff for a few miles through what is called Pleasure Point, a famed surfing area till it ends at the bottom of 41st Ave.

If you head away from the ocean for a few blocks, cross Portola Ave. and keep going for one more block, you will end up at Family Cycling Center (They Rent Bikes!), a charter supporter of the National Bicycle Greenway. Further up the street is Spa Fitness where you can get a shower and a soak in the their great hot tubs and rooms for $10 and in the same center you can restock on natural groceries at New Leaf Market. This is ideal if you are camping at Newbrighten Beach which is about three miles away.

The next block up is Jade Street where you will make a right. A left on 42nd Ave. will take you a short ways up to Capitola Rd and Dharmas Restaurant, a locally famous meat free eatery that lost its original name, McDharmas, in a lawsuit to McDonalds the hamburger giant. A half mile later, on Capitola Rd, you will speed downhill into the fun little Capitola at the ocean

Photo Courtesy Tom Shattuck

You can go out on their pier to the Wharf House restaurant, an NBG supporter, or you can stay in town and refresh yourself at Margaritaville on the ocean's edge or at Mr. Toots Coffeehouse upstairs. Make sure while you're in the village to say 'hi to Carin at the Craft Gallery, a charter supporter of the NBG.

Pump through the quaint village filled with gift shops, beach wear and small eateries to a left up the short hill to The Inn at Depot Hill, an NBG supporter. This 4-Star B&B was reconverted from an old train depot. If you were lucky enough to get a room there, you can expect to be spoiled in elegance beyond compare. Tell management that you heard about them here and they might be able to work something out for you!

If camping is on your mind, cross the RR tracks just opposite the Inn and make a right on Park Ave. Follow Park for a few miles, where at Hwy. 1, off to the right is New Brighton State Beach. They have a hiker/biker campground for which cyclists do not need a reservation! The campground here, set in a beautiful eucalyptus grove, sits on a cliff high above the ocean (there is a stairwell).If you don't want to stay the night but just take in the awesome views, the freeway frontage road that runs in front of it will take you to the next State Beach a mile away. At State Park Dr., which is also the next freeway exit, turn right and follow the signs down the hill to Seacliff Beach, famous for the cement boat that lives in its waves. Unfortunately, self contained motor homes are the only camping structures they allow here.

Double back out of the park to the small business district you will have passed through on the way in. Located near the corner of Center and State Park Dr, is Manuels Restaurant. This is where the locals go for the best Mexican food you will find any where.

Photo Courtesy Tom Shattuck

Santa Cruz is Home to:

Calfee Design
Easy Racer Recumbents
Free Form Fashion (Cycling Wear)
The Juice Cycle
Music Now
Rock Lobster Cycles
Terra Nova (Bicycle Based) Ecological Landscaping
The Zzipper Road Fairing
Santa Cruz Bicycles
Use State Park Dr. to cross over the freeway and a short way up is Soquel Dr. Turn right here. A mild downhill will take you past the huge El Rancho shopping center and under a set of railroad tracks. At this point, you can use a mountain bike to explore the famed Nisene Marks parklands. The entrance is located off to your left on Aptos Creek Rd. Here your ride will be cooled by the shade of a redwood forest that provides some of the most beautiful off-road cycling you will find anywhere in the world. At Nisene, you can even tour the epicenter of the big earthquake that rocked San Francisco, Santa Cruz and the 1989 World Series.

If you prefer the road, a left on Trout Gulch, the next left a short distance away, here in what is now the two-block long, quaint Aptos Village, will take you out into great untrafficked apple orchard riding. Or you can stay on Soquel Dr, for another couple of miles to Freedom Blvd., where a left at the freeway will take you to Watsonville and a right will take you on coastal back roads all the way to Montery.

Whichever route you choose, stick with Cycle America and your experience of Santa Cruz and it's sister cities of Soquel, Capitola and Aptos will always be an enjoyable one!