If you're reading this, you’re likely preparing to visit the Santa Cruz Forest. In this post, we’ll explain how to get to the forest and share our local recommendations.
Please save these directions before heading to the forest as cell phone service may be unreliable.
Buzzard Lagoon Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95033
NOTE: As of 1/23/23, the forest is ONLY accessible from Eureka Canyon Road through Corralitos, to the south/east of Santa Cruz. Access from Highway 17 is currently CLOSED.
Do not turn onto Rider Road at any point, continue up Eureka Canyon Road until you reach the northern side of Buzzard Lagoon Road
Most people use Google Maps to get to the forest. Below is the link to the exact forest location.
Better Place Forests Santa Cruz (Google Maps)
Directions from Downtown Santa Cruz (Highway 1 South)
This is the preferred route to the forest.
- From CA-1 South, take exit 433A for Freedom Blvd and turn left onto Freedom Blvd.
- After 2.7 miles, bear left onto Hames Rd.
- After a half mile, turn right onto Pleasant Valley Rd.
- After about 300ft, turn left onto Hames Rd.
- After 1.5 miles, turn left onto Eureka Canyon Rd (Note: you will be at an intersection with the Corralitos Market on your right) and follow Eureka Canyon Rd for about 9 miles.
- Turn left onto Buzzard Lagoon Road and follow Buzzard Lagoon Road for about half a mile
- Turn right at the large "Better Place Forests" sign that marks the entrance to our forest. The road leading to our forest is firmly packed gravel — it’s a bit bumpy, but sedans should be fine.
Directions from the Bay Area (Highway 17 South)
- THIS ROUTE IS CURRENTLY NOT OPEN
- From CA-17 South, take the Summit Road exit and make a sharp right at the stop sign onto Summit Road. You will crossover CA-17 and immediately come to a stop sign.
- At this stop sign, you must turn Left onto Summit Road. If you turned right, it would put you right back on Highway 17 North.
- During the course of this 6 miles you will pass the Loma Prieta School, Burrell School Winery, Summit Store, Soquel-San Jose Road and the Fire Station. When you see Radonich Ranch on your right, you are almost to the stop sign.
- You’ll come to a small intersection with Mt. Bache Rd (see image below). At the stop sign, bear right to stay on Highland Way.
- About 100 feet later, keep left to stay on Highland Way when it intersects with Spanish Ranch Road (see photo below).
- Follow Highland Way for about 6 miles. You know you’re getting close to our forest when you pass Soquel Demonstration Trailhead and see the sign for Camp Loma on your right. Our forest is about 10-15 minutes from this camp.
- Turn right onto Buzzard Lagoon Road and follow Buzzard Lagoon Road for about half a mile.Turn right at the large "Better Place Forests" sign that marks the entrance to our forest. The road leading to our forest is firmly packed gravel — it’s a bit bumpy, but sedans should be fine.
- Our forest is located in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains — it’s incredibly peaceful, but cell phone service can be unreliable.
- We recommend wearing sneakers or hiking boots.
- Please save these directions as service on the way to the forest may be unreliable.
Enjoy a standard hotel close to the forest, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, or on the shore of famous beaches with one of these hotel recommendations.
- Best Western Seacliff Inn: Located 40 minutes from our forest, the Best Western Seacliff Inn has everything you need for a good night’s rest. The hotel has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, and on-site dining.
- Four Points by Sheraton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley: Spacious rooms with comfortable amenities, a restaurant and lounge, and convenient access to the surrounding area.
- Babbling Brook Inn: This boutique hotel is located in an 18th-century grist mill. It is a block from Highway 1, and just an 11-minute walk from downtown Santa Cruz and 0.9 miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
- Rio Sands Hotel: Located just a two-minute walk away from the famous Rio Del Mar and Seacliff State Beach this hotel is a great home base for a trip to Santa Cruz County — and it’s only 40 minutes from our forest.
- Hotel Paradox: If you’re looking to stay in Santa Cruz, Hotel Paradox is a stunning hotel inspired by the beauty of the local region. This modern hotel boasts a gym, pool, and on-site dining.
- Chaminade Resort & Spa: Those looking to relax in luxury should look into staying at Chaminade Resort & Spa. You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay while enjoying all of the perks of a secluded resort.
Santa Cruz County offers a variety of delicious fare. Below we’ve listed some of our favorite bites in Santa Cruz, and our forest’s neighboring cities of Aptos and Corralitos.
- Harbor Cafe: If you’re staying in Santa Cruz, begin your day with breakfast at Harbor Cafe. You can’t go wrong with their Cali Croissant, one of their delicious omelets, or the award-winning Bloody Mary. Make sure you get there early before the line gets too long.
- Pizza My Heart: This local favorite has been serving pizza to surfers and tourists alike since the 1980s. With three locations in Santa Cruz County, Pizza My Heart is a great place to stop for a quick bite before or after a visit to the forest.
- Cafe Sparrow: Located within a historic two-room post office and general, this intimate and romantic restaurant in Aptos will have you lingering long into the evening. The menu offers a variety of fresh foods with French influence and rotating specials. An excellent wine list gives you an opportunity to sample local bottles.
- Akira Aptos: Fresh sushi, sashimi, and nigiri are on offer at Akira along with a selection of sake and beer. It has a modern ambiance, a mix of traditional and inventive rolls (including vegetarian options).
- Dharma’s: This vegetarian restaurant has been serving Santa Cruz since 1981. With indoor and outdoor seating, the highest quality ingredients, and a wide-ranging menu, there’s a lot to like. Try the Brahma Burger or the Butternut Squash Ravioli.
- Taqueria Los Pericos: If you’re looking for a California burrito, look no further. This hole-in-the-wall taco shop is famous for its traditional Mexican dishes, extensive burrito menu, and generous serving sizes. Taqueria Los Pericos has locations in Santa Cruz and Corralitos.
Things To Do
There is something for everyone to enjoy in Santa Cruz County no matter if you’re staying for a few hours or a few days.
- Henry Cowell Redwood State Park: Located near Scotts Valley, this park features an iconic 30-acre old-growth redwood grove. Enjoy hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, and more.
- Nisene Marks State Park: A retreat from the busy towns and beaches along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz, Its dense second- and third-growth redwood forest rises from near sea level to steep coastal mountains. Picnic near Aptos Creek, or hike, jog, and bike along 30 miles of trails in this semi-rugged wilderness, which rises from sea level to coastal mountains at 2,600 feet.
- New Brighton State Beach: This 95-acre state beach offers sweeping views of the California coast and is often less crowded than more urban beaches nearby. Available recreation includes camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, and swimming.
- Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market: Features over 30 local farmers and specialty food purveyors every Saturday from May through November. Enjoy getting to know the community, taking in live music, and activities for children.
- The Corralitos Wine Trail: Discover six independent, family-owned wineries in Corralitos. As you travel the short distance between wineries, take in redwoods, apple orchards, olive groves, and flower farms.
- Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: This beachfront amusement park is fun for the entire family. Known to be one of the nation’s best, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been operating since 1907 and admission is free.
- Roaring Camp Railroads: Take a train ride through redwoods and over trestles with Roaring Camp Railroads. Learn about local history and the railroad while winding through the mountains on a steam train from the 1880s!
- Santa Cruz Wharf: Paddle out on a kayak, buy a souvenir, or grab a bite to eat while enjoying the beautiful Santa Cruz Wharf.
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing: One of several independent breweries in the area, stop by this taproom and beer garden to sample organic beers, sandwiches, and small plates.
If you have questions leading up to your tour, you can reach our team directly at:
Email: [email protected]
We look forward to seeing you in the forest soon!
All forest visits require a reservation. If you haven't made one yet, please reach out to our support team to schedule yours today.