The ultimate cycling adventure is many things to many people. For some, it is a long, untested distance, For others, it is a great adventure of cities and skylines. But, for those in Southern California, one of the best – and often overlooked – cycling adventures is in Santa Cruz county. It isn’t a beach or a desert trail – but rather 120 miles of all of it combined. That’s right: You can connect all of Santa Cruz county’s state park riding paths and beaches. 

Ten Hours of Adventure and Exercise

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120 miles take the average cyclist 10 hours of so to trek, and this is not your average cycling adventure. You will climb to elevations of 2,000 feet when you are in Big Basin Redwood State Park – and then drop to the beach on the same path. A moderate to ambitious beginner will be fine on this not too technical ride. The 11 mile out and back is the only portion of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail that allows bikes, however when you arrive at the Berry Creek Falls Trail it’s simply a short half mile hike to the falls. You can bike up sandy and mountainous dunes (if you dare) at Sunset and Palm State Beaches. Advanced riders who crave fast technical singletrack, are ready to climb and equipped with a full-suspension bike will appreciate the legendary free ride and cross-country destination known as the Demo.

Located in the forest of Nisene Marks is the Soquel Demonstration Forest Mountain Bike Trail, located just south of Santa Cruz, in Aptos, home to the Annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival. For those who are a little less adventurous, you can still have a good ride without the twists, turns, and injury-possibilities. The Rancho Del Oso State Park is full of lovely marshland to cycle through – and around – plus, it’s home to many endangered species to enjoy. 

If you choose to go the whole 120 miles, there is a “Park ‘n Ride” at its start, in Scotts Valley. The gorgeous Santa Cruz mountains are your first observance, along with the crisp, clean air. For those who are wanting to drive in and stay overnight, there are hotels near the “Park ‘n Ride”.

 Be Prepared

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Let’s face it: Sometimes we are not prepared, and bad things can happen. When cycling, you need to be prepared for injuries and emergencies. However, you need to go a few extra steps when cycling in such a rural area. Cell phone service can go in and out, and there are very few places to find food in the state parks. Be sure to keep your cell phone charged, keep cash on hand (in case you end up having to call a cab or something), and keep plenty of food and water in your backpack. Dehydration is never pretty, and you should carry more water than you think you need, just to be safe.