CENTRAL COAST DOG WALKS
by Whitney Wilde
Looking for an all-season walk for you and your furry friend? DeLaveaga Park in Santa Cruz has it all: redwoods, cactus gardens, eucalyptus groves, oak woodlands, grassy meadows, panoramic views, and vigorous hikes or gentle strolls.
In the late 1800s, this was the Jose Vincente DeLaveaga Hacienda. DeLaveaga, a lifelong bachelor and successful financier, left his large estate to charities. (Though this was challenged by an illegitimate son!) The park has been home to a military armory, a tank practice area, a gun range, three movie studios, vineyards, citrus and nut groves, exotic gardens, a riding academy, an animal shelter, and even a zoo. Now owned by the City of Santa Cruz, the park features miles of trails and two off-leash areas.
Most folks know about DeLaveaga Park (on Branciforte Drive) with its small, off-leash area in the sand pit. The hiking trails wind along the hillside and can be steep or gentle, depending on which trail you take. The dense redwoods act as your umbrella during rainy days. You can choose the wide middle trail that gently goes uphill to the disc golf course, the very steep upper trail, or the lower trail that follows along the hillside to overlook Happy Valley.
There is also another great area of DeLaveaga just off Highway One at the Morrissey Boulevard exit, running parallel to Prospect Heights.
Pacheco Dog Park, though not officially part of DeLaveaga, is located on the corner of Pacheco Avenue and Prospect Heights. Opened in 2009, the off-leash dog park is small, completely fenced with a double-entry gate, redwood chips, a dog water spigot, and one lone tree. Perfect for a Rover rendezvous.
Across from the dog park, along the base of the hill behind the houses, is a fire road called Old Vineyard Trail (see trail map link). I almost hate to admit this, but I am a voyeur at heart and enjoy the glimpse into people’s gardens. It inspires me and gives me ideas for my own yard.
From Pacheco Dog Park, look toward the hill; to the left of the houses is one entrance to Old Vineyard Trail. It is a half-mile, fairly flat trail… and perfect for walking your woof! The end of this trail goes into an area that is steep and overgrown, and I usually turn around and retrace my steps back to the dog park.
Looking for a nice, short walk on a rainy day? Another entrance is a few blocks farther south on Prospect Heights, at Park Way. Walk straight past the gate, and Parkway Trail is fairly flat, winding through oaks, under archways of fallen trees, and along a creek for about a half mile until it dead-ends at the golf course.
Back at the gate at Park Way, turn right onto Old Vineyard Trail and go up a short incline. It winds past all kinds of interesting veggie gardens, cactus gardens, tree houses, views of Monterey Bay, and more. Watch for exotic plants from Jose DeLaveaga’s lifetime. Only the most observant will see the remains of the citrus and nut groves, as well as the Cork Tree. I notice something new every time I walk here.
At the first fork in the road, there is a paved road to the left that goes a short distance uphill to a water tower.
Keep on the main road, and you will arrive at the intersection with Brookwood Drive. Follow this paved road down to the left, and you will come to the Archery Range at the bottom. It is fairly steep, winding through the oaks. Be aware; this is an active archery range! If you continue on this road, you will eventually end up at the golf course.
My favorite walk, however, is to go left up a dirt trail through the pine trees, ending at the edge of the golf course. Half-way, there is a cutoff trail on the right that leads to a bench and a memorial to someone’s dog. You have a wonderful view of Monterey Bay and across a small valley to the Chaminade Resort.
Regardless of how far you walk, this is not a loop trail and you will have to retrace your steps – but that just gives you more opportunities to see what you missed!
(There are no rest rooms on any of these trails.)
Off Water Street, take Market Street. Market Street will go under Highway One and become Branciforte Drive. The dirt parking area is on the right about ¼ mile from Goss Avenue.
Go south on Prospect Heights to Park Way. There is limited parking in a dirt area if you go left on Park Way; otherwise, park on Prospect Heights and walk in.