Aptos Rancho Trail
4.5 miles     600 ft
21 Jan 2013

Awesome redwood hike all along Aptos Creek, with several creek crossings without bridges.

Location: Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Elevation Profile
Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Brochure: Official Trail Map with details of both Forest of Nisene Marks and Soquel Demonstration Forest. The area close to Entrance Station in Forest of Nisene Marks is shown enlarged. Trail lengths are missing in this map.

» PeasePress Map: Trails of Santa Cruz: Excellent quality map showing various parks in the Santa Cruz area.


To George's Picnic Area (1.4 miles): From the Entrance Station kiosk, follow Aptos Rancho Trail (0.6) miles to intersection with Terrace Trail. Continue along Aptos Rancho Trail (0.8 miles) to George's Picnic Area. The trail remains all along the east side of Aptos Creek Trail. There are no creek crossings in this section.

To Entrance Kiosk 3.1 miles): From George's Picnic Area retrace your steps along Rancho Aptos Trail (0.4 miles), turn right on a connector trail that crosses the creek and joins with Vienna Woods Trail (see trail map for details). Follow Vienna Woods Trail (0.6 miles) to Mesa Grand. Retrace your steps along Vienna Woods Trail (0.6 miles) to junction with Terrace Trail. Then follow a series of trails (1.5 miles) as follows: right on Terrace Trail → left on Oak Ridge Trail → left on Old Growth Loop Trail → cross the creek, then follow trails back to Entrance Station kiosk.


  • There are unnamed intersections along Aptos Rancho Trail. This is a beautiful trail going along Aptos Creek but at an elevation. At many points, there are opportunities to take a short side trail down to the river.
  • Near Twisted Grove Trail, Old Growth Loop Trail and Oak Ridge Trail, there are many other unnamed trails as well, with unsigned junctions. So it is difficult to know where exactly one is walking. Generally speaking, the creek is at a much lower elevation and the sides of the valleys are steep.
  • There are no bridges anywhere along Aptos Creek. So whenever the trail crosses the creek, we have to wade through water. In January 2013, water level was low and there were many stones in the river bed that allowed us to cross easily, without getting our shoes wet.

Location: Along Aptos Creek Road, about one mile north of intersection of Aptos Creek Road and Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA. Near 'Steel Bridge' and 'Winter Gate' in the official map. . No street address. Parking area is not visible in Google Maps.

Directions: From Highway 17 going south, go along CA-1 South. After about six miles, take Exit 435 for State Park Drive towards Aptos. Soon after the exit, turn left onto State Park Drive. After 0.3 miles, take the second right onto Soquel Drive. In half a mile, you will reach the intersection of Soquel Drive and Aptos Creek Road in Aptos, CA. Turn left onto Aptos Creek Road and drive about a mile to reach the Park Entrance kiosk where you would have to pay entrance fees. Drive another mile to reach George's Picnic Area, which is near 'Steel Bridge' and 'Winter Gate' in the official map.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: $8 per vehicle (last visited: March 2014)

Capacity: About 15 cars

Latitude: 36.997309     Longitude: -121.906507


Full photo album — 21 January 2013

Photos are from a different hike with similar landscape: Aptos Rancho Trail - Porter Trail.

Full photo album — 21 January 2013

Photos are from a different hike with similar landscape: Aptos Rancho Trail - Porter Trail.
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