Demonstration State Forest
California Department of Forestry,
Santa Cruz County
4.7 mile out and back in a preserve wildly popular with mountain bikers.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.7 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 400 feet in elevation change, but other options increase the hiking difficulty considerably. Trailhead elevation is around 1625 feet. The main trail, a wide fire road, heads downhill from there, with elevation near the western border of about 500 feet. If you elect to hike the Sulphur Springs/Corral Trail Loop, you'll climb to over 2000 feet. This is a destination with long trails and plenty of elevation changes.
Mix of sun and shade.
Moderate -- mostly mountain bikers.
Dirt fire road.
2 1/2 hours.
Nice any time.
From CA 17 at the border between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, exit Summit Road. Drive south on Summit Road about 4 miles, at which point Soquel-San Jose Road departs to the right, and Summit turns into Highland Way. Continue straight on Highland Way (there's no stop sign heading south or north). At the junction with Mount Bache, about 1 mile further south, turn right and then quickly left at Spanish Ranch Road to remain on Highland. Continue on Highland about another 4.3 miles, then park on the right side of the road near the signed entrance.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
There is a small grocery store (with pay phones) on Summit, about 5 miles from the forest. No gas or restaurants nearby. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. No toilet facilities or water. Side of road parking (an interior lot is sometimes open, but access is often restricted). Maps available inside the forest, at an information kiosk (not visible from the road). No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not suitable for wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to this forest.
Dogs permitted on leash. Open dawn to dusk. Trails are multi-use.
The Official Story:
Park office 831-475-8643
CDF's Soquel page
Use AAA's Monterey Bay Region map to get there (the state forest is not shown on the map, but it is just to the east of Forest of Nisene Marks).
Trails of Santa Cruz, by Pease Press (order from Pease Press) shows Soquel Demonstration Forest trails in great detail.
Map from CDF (download the pdf).
Call the park office (831-475-8643) and ask them to mail you a map.
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map (order this book from Amazon.com).
Soquel Demonstration Forest in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
I walked through Soquel Demonstration State Forest,a
recurring thought nagged me: could I enjoy myself here if this wasn't
a demonstration forest? Would it possible for me to turn a blind eye to
the logging trucks, and the obvious ongoing "wood harvesting?"
Could I admire a particularly scenic and sturdy redwood year after year,
or would the giant be gone next time? After all, Soquel's woods are a
lot like other forested hillsides of Santa Cruz Mountains parks and preserves,
with thick stands of Douglas fir, redwood, tanoak, and madrone. As nearly
all of the bay area was logged extensively, our present publicly-owned
forests are comprised predominantly of second-growth trees. But, no bay
area publicly-owned recreation areas are actively logged, with the exception of state demonstration forests.
California manages 8 of these forests, comprising around 71,000 acres.
Soquel, with about 2,681 acres, is the only publicly-accessible demonstration
forest in the bay area. Demonstration forests offer recreation as a secondary
use; their primary function is to conduct research projects on forest
management, and of course, to log.