San Lorenzo Valley
The San Lorenzo Valley fans out to the north of Santa Cruz along the San Lorenzo River, and can be reached directly on Highway 9. It’s a scenic valley, studded with groves of towering pines and redwoods. The main towns here are Felton, Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek. all of them small, secluded, and in picturesque forest settings.
Felton is the first of these, located roughly 8 miles to the north of Santa Cruz. It has in it one of California’s few remaining covered bridges, dating from 1892. But just before Felton, a mile to the south of it, lies the 4,300-acre Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, home to groves of 200-year-old virgin redwoods, as well as Roaring Camp, one of the main tourist attractions in the area. The camp is actually an 1880s logging camp, which incorporates a 19th-century steam train, the Big Trees Railroad, offering excursions through miles of magnificent forests. Roaring Camp also features a recreated Western-style village, with a country store, steam sawmill and railroad depot, and hosts several special events. including chuck-wagon barbeques, moonlight picnics, bluegrass music, and melodrama theater.
Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek
Two miles north of Felton lies Ben Lomond, a village with something in it that is reminiscent of Scotland: it has its very own stone castle, the privately-owned Waverly Castle, located near the north end of town, just off the highway.
North still, another two and a half miles, and we are at Boulder Creek, a typical mountain town, with a handful of shops strung along its main street (Highway 9), where local artisans display and sell their handicrafts.
Big Basin Redwood State Park
Of interest, too, six miles north from Boulder Creek on Highway 236, is the Big Basin Redwood State Park, a 16,000-acre forest preserve that has the distinction of being California’s first state park, originally founded in 1902. The park has over 80 miles of hiking trails journeying through lush, wooded country, and a small nature museum with exhibits of plants and animals indigenous to the region.
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