CA Coastal Treasures for the MTB: Part 3


The sunken fog amidst the redwood trees will always feel like home. When I click my heels together and chant, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” the salty misty air that glistens and greets you every morning fills me with nostalgia for the Santa Cruz Mountains. When people think of Santa Cruz, many think of surfboards, bikinis, the boardwalk, etc…but as a child, I entertained myself under a canopy of redwoods and eucalyptus–dodging the poison oak, and keeping up the pretense that I was a grand adventurer to give my imagination full range. I caught lizards and counted their push-ups, collected leaves of all shapes and sizes, and got my sister to kiss the banana slug for entertainment. The mountains resonate as my point of recognition and definition for Santa Cruz. One such mountain is Nisene Marks.

The Trail

While Mountain Bikers are only allowed on the Aptos Fire road (and four other minor trails below the steel bridge), it is an excellent place for some well needed conditioning. This is one of my favorite adventures post rainy weather. It is a 8.5 mile trek up to Sand Point from the parking lot behind Epicenter Cycling. On a clear day, Sand Point is the lookout where you can gaze on the Monterey Bay after climbing 2,300 feet of elevation. I recommend bringing an extra layer for the way down because you fly down the mountain for another 8.5 miles and are pretty chilled by the time you reach your car. 

 For a more intensive workout, you can continue up the fire road until you reach the renowned Demonstration Forest. Demo is well known for its Flow trail and Braile trail and many access it from Nisene. Though there is an easier entrance to that forest from Highland Road, EpiCenter Cycling Shop does offer a shuttle service up to the Highland entrance if you’d like to finish off your ride by flying down the Aptos fire road (8.5 miles+ of down hill).

A much needed post ride cleaning

Who’s There?

Mountain Bikers and hikers generally populate the trail. You won’t see any furry friends unless it’s the local mountain lion that rarely shows itself to humans.


In the early 1900s, the land was used to harvest the ever so desirable redwoods and was cut clear. Everything that lives there today, has regrown. Redwoods have a wonderful capacity to regrow out of their own fallen trees which is why you will never see a fallen tree picked up or cut up for its wood within the forest. When trees fall on the trail, usually just the piece that’s blocking the trail is cut and moved to the side of the fire road.

In the 1950s, the land was donated on the premise that it would never be used for its resources again, but protected and enjoyed by people who came to visit.

Nisene Marks State Park