Twin Lakes to Natural Bridges
8.0 miles     350 ft
9 Jul 2011

A gorgeous walk along Santa Cruz coastline.

Location: Santa Cruz BeachWest Cliff Drive

Elevation Profile
Trip Planning

Trail Maps

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


Start of Hike: The eastern end of Twin Lakes State Beach is accessible from 14th Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Route: The total length of all sections listed below is 8 miles. However, you may combine a subset of adjoining sections to create shorter point-to-point or round-trip routes:

  1. 0.6 miles along Twin Lakes State Beach (WebsiteYelp reviews) — Walk from the eastern end of Twin Lakes State Beach to its western end where a short rocky jetty awaits you. From the tip of the jetty, you get great views of Twin Lakes State Beach in the east and the Santa Cruz Harbor Lighthouse in the west.
  2. 1.5 miles around Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor (Website) — Walk back from the jetty, continue through the parking lots for Santa Cruz Harbor, hop onto Lake Avenue, which connects to Eaton Drive. Cross a bridge along Eaton Drive. Immediately, after crossing the bridge, a staircase brings you back to Santa Cruz Harbor. Walk towards the ocean and reach Santa Cruz Harbor Lighthouse (WebsiteWebsite). Finally, walk 0.25 miles back from Santa Cruz Harbor Lighthouse to eastern end of Seabright Beach.
  3. 0.5 miles along Seabright State Beach (Yelp Review) — Walk from the eastern end of Seabright Beach (Website) to its western end marked by San Lorenzo river that empties into the ocean. In July 2011, water was about 18 inches high, so we could wade through the river easily. If the river is too deep, it is possible to go climb up to East Cliff Drive, walk parallel to the river, then walk across the river over a bridge and return to the beach. Total additional mileage: about 0.2 miles.
  4. 0.6 miles along Santa Cruz Beach (Yelp reviews) — From San Lorenzo river, walk along Santa Cruz from east to west. This is a very popular beach. It is adjacent to Santa Cruz Boardwalk (Website) which has roller coaster rides and shops. At the western end of Santa Cruz Beach lies Santa Cruz Wharf.
  5. 1.2 miles round-trip along Santa Cruz Wharf (Yelp reviews) — Walk to the end of the wharf and return. There are plenty of restaurants along the wharf. Good spot to take a break.
  6. 1.2 miles along West Cliff Drive (Yelp reviewsDescription) — From Santa Cruz Wharf, walk towards Beach St, then turn left and hop onto West Cliff Drive. Adjacent to West Cliff Drive lies Cowell Beach (Yelp reviews), a small beach. Public restrooms are available outside the beach entrance. Instead of visiting the beach, walk about a mile along West Cliff Drive to reach the eastern end of Lighthouse Field State Beach. At this point, there is a promontory that overlooks Seal Rock (Website).
  7. 2.1 miles along West Cliff Drive (Yelp reviewsDescription) — From the promontory in the eastern end of Lighthouse Field State Park (WebsiteYelp reviews), walk down to the beach. To exit the beach, you may either walk up a staircase leading to West Cliff Drive, or you may walk up to an arch about 0.3 miles west. At sufficiently low tide, you may go through the arch safely and explore the nearby area. To return to West Cliff Drive, either retrace your steps back to the staircase, or continue hopping on large boulders followed by a short but steep scramble. Then continue along West Cliff Drive until you reach Natural Bridges State Park parking lot.
  8. 0.2 miles in Natural Bridges State Park (WebsiteTrail MapYelp reviewsEveryTrailNatural Bridges Tidepools Exploration Map) — A short walk to the parking lot provides great views of the beach and the rocks from which the park derives its name

Notes: You may extend the hike with a 1-mile loop in Natural Bridges State Park (see Trail Map).

Santa Cruz Harbor & Lighthouse

Start Location

Location: East Cliff Drive & 14th Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 . Parking area is visible in Google Maps if you zoom in sufficiently.

Directions: From CA-1 South, take exit 439 for Soquel Ave, then turn left on Soquel Ave and drive for 0.2 miles. Take the 2nd right onto 17th Ave and drive for 1.7 miles. Slight right onto East Cliff Drive and drive for 0.2 miles to reach the intersection with 14th Avenue.

Parking Permits: There is limited parking along 14th Avenue and plenty of parking along East Cliff Drive. In July 2011, permits were required from 11am onwards at all of these parking spots. Permits were available at a location along East Cliff Drive that was manned only from 10am onwards. Permits could be bought in advance from Live Oak Parking Program website.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: Only Permit Parking is allowed. (last visited: July 2011)

Capacity: Limited parking along 14th Street. Plenty of parking along East Cliff Drive.

Latitude: 36.963819     Longitude: -121.991699

End Location

Location: West Cliff Drive & Swanton Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 . Parking area is visible in Google Maps if you zoom in sufficiently.

Directions: From CA-17 South towards Santa Cruz, continue onto CA-1 North and drive for 1.2 miles. Slight right onto Mission Street (signs for CA-1 North / Half Moon Bay) and drive for 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Swift Street and drive for 0.3 miles. Take the 2nd right onto Delaware Street and drive for 0.4 miles. Take the 1st left onto Swanton Blvd and drive for 0.4 miles.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: None (last visited: August 2011)

Capacity: Plenty of street parking along Swanton Blvd

Latitude: 36.949764     Longitude: -122.055775

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