Santa Cruz, CA

Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park features 10,000 acres of second-growth redwood forest, offering 30 miles of trails that stretch from sea level up to 2,600 ft elevation. Located in Aptos, just east of Seacliff State Beach, the trails are a wonderful combination of fire roads and some more rugged trails, through mainly wooded and hilly terrain.

For runners, the best bet and the easiest footing is the gravel-surfaced Aptos Creek Fire Rd., which follows Aptos Creek for 10.6 miles, gaining nearly 2,600 feet. HOWEVER, the first 4 miles, from the park entrance station heading east, are relatively flat, and the road is fairly wide with good footing. A magical run, with great shade on a hot day. The hills kick in around the 4 mile mark, and average 10% grade. The Sand Point Overlook is at the ~7.5 mile mark. Trails parallel the main park road (Fire Rd.), and are runnable but rougher. Now, you could get someone to drop you off at the western terminus of the road, at the Santa Rosalia Trail Confluence and Overlook, so you can run down the Fire Rd. (and an extra 1.5 miles east of the park entrance to end up at the beach!)

Essentials
  • Fire Road is 10.7 miles (17.1 km) one-way. First 4 miles fairly flat, last 6.6 miles are steep!
  • 2,600 feet on one-way run, but hills start at 4-mile mark. 10% average grade on hilly section
  • Fire Rd. starts near main entrance to park
  • Park Entrance off Aptos Creek Rd.