The Santa Cruz Mountains, part of the Pacific Coast Ranges, are a mountain range in central and northern California, and are part of both Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County. The Santa Cruz Mountains are largely the result of compressive uplift caused by a leftward bend of the San Andreas Fault. It has a Mediterranean-type climate typical of most of California, with the majority of the annual precipitation falling between November and April. The Santa Cruz Mountains are now home to an abundance of parks and protected open spaces, notable among them is California's oldest state park: Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Many small towns and communities abound this tree-clad area and give a real rural mountain feel only minutes from Silicon Valley.

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The Santa Cruz Mountains stretch from San Francisco on the north to Watsonville and the Pajaro River on the south. The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregion encompasses all that area that receives rainfall drainage off the mountain range. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay on the west and San Francisco Bay and Santa Clara Valley on the east. It thus encompasses the entire San Francisco Peninsula and the northern half of the greater Monterey Bay area. See a more detailed map of the Bioregion here.


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Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is home to one of the last remaining stands of old-growth redwood in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This loop trail is short (under one mile) but offers a fantastic chance to see some towering redwoods in Central California.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park & Castle Rock State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Castle Rock State Park are located in the central section of the Santa Cruz Mountains and they are home to a great assortment of hiking trails. One of the most popular options is the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which usually takes hikers about 3 days to complete.

The trail is about 25 miles (40.2km) long and starts at Castle Rock State Park and takes hikers through a great collection of old-growth redwood groves. Additionally, the hike involves plenty of waterfalls and views of the surrounding region.

Mt El Sombroso via Limekiln Trail

The trek to Mt El Sombroso via the Limekiln Trail is 11.7 miles (18.8km) long. It features beautiful wildflowers and is a popular alternative to the Lexington Reservoir Loop. The trail starts in Lexington Reservoir County Park and then enters the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve to take hikers to the summit of El Sombroso.