What luck to find the perfect redwoods hike near Santa Cruz, CA for the whole family… especially after the madness that occurred in our first two days of travel with kids in California!
Let me summarize the chaos of the two days before this hike…
The reason for our California trip was to attend a family wedding, but methinks our two small children understood the trip as a challenge to vomit in the maximum locations possible.
Day ONE of the trip was our first ever flight with two kids under 4. That very morning, our toddler, Jojo, upchucked in the following places: Her crib at home, the taxi to the airport, the airplane to California, and our hotel room.
Upon arrival in Santa Cruz, the kids switched vomiting responsibilities. Our preschooler, Devi, proceeded to puke in the following locations: His hotel bed, the wedding we were attending (both dance floor and dining area), and our rental car. Oy!
By Day 3 in California, the little ones had stopped vomiting at last, and were as chipper as could be — phew! — but my spouse, Colin, and I were rattled to the core, and needed a cleansing, quality activity to regain sanity.
Ever the healer, Colin’s uncle Dave suggested a favorite local hike: the Redwood Grove Loop Trail in beautiful Henry Cowell State Park.
What a stroke of genius! I STRONGLY recommend this hike if you’re in the area. Here is why it’s perfect for both kids and adults.
First, the Redwood Grove Loop Trail is the ideal distance and shape for hiking with kids. It is a flat loop of just 0.8 of a mile, which means no backtracking or path-finding is needed, and the whole thing can be done in an hour or two.
Let me amend that. If you have distractible kids like ours, this 0.8-mile hike could take 12-14 hours due to the children intently picking up rocks and sticks… but that’s why you bring a stroller: To forcibly move the kiddos forward when they’re taking too long. This brings us to the second perk…
YES, the entire Redwood Grove Loop Trail has smooth packed dirt that is stroller-friendly and wheelchair-accessible! For those of us with willful toddlers who will sprint directly into the Poison Oak, this is gold. Jojo had a grand old time taking in the giant trees from her rolling throne.
Third, there is plenty for kids to do. Five minutes into the hike, Devi befriended a girl his age who was visiting from New Zealand, and the two spent the next hour chasing each other down the path, picking up leaves, and making “pooty putt” jokes.
Further, if you are a teacher in the area, K-12 student groups can enter Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park for free with a reservation at least 2 weeks in advance. Sweet!
Convinced that this hike is for you? Faboo. Here are some logistics, curated from the helpful official website.
For your vehicle, the Redwood Grove Loop Trail has a big parking lot with a small fee to park for the day. Dogs, drones, and bicycles are not allowed on this trail, and neither are horses, so leave your pony at home, people, as much as I’m sure it would like to tag along.
Halfway through the trail, there are restrooms, which is a relief for those of us over-hydraters. Careful with these restrooms, however, because they look so cute that little Devi actually refused to leave the “Pretty Little House,” and had to be forcibly evicted by his Daddy.
If this hike seems too easy for you, oh you cross-trainer, never fear — there are many other hiking options (not to mention campgrounds and an old-fashioned railroad) within the 40 acres of Henry Cowell Redwoods State park, neatly laid out in their website.
Some members of our group who were not chasing small children did the Powder Mill Road and Trail up to a vista that I would have loved to see, but a certain someone was busy chasing me with a large branch.
If you’re seeking accommodations in the area beyond camping, use these easy TripAdvisor links, which provide a small commission to this site for hotel searches at no extra cost to you:
- These Santa Cruz hotels have some good deals, and are in a charming town.
- We stayed in one of these well-rated Capitola-by-the-Sea hotels which was close to the state park, in a fun location, and affordable.
- These hotels are close to the redwoods, and there are some awesome looking, creative options in the bunch.
Regarding food, we had luck using my Yelp app to track down some luscious California sandwiches in a restaurant just 15 minutes from the park, replete with thick slices of avocado.
Speaking of thick slices, make sure you take a photograph with the hulking redwood tree cross-section that greets you at the entrance to the Redwood Grove Loop Trail!
Thank you, Henry Cowell State Park, for forest bathing our souls, and airing out our vomit-streaked clothes. Your trail made us very happy. I thank the people who work hard to keep the park so glorious, and thank the trees themselves for their majesty!
So what about you? Have you been to this part of California? If so, how was it? If not, does it seem like a spot you’d like to explore? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!