Santa Cruz Section 6
Capitola to Manresa State Beach
This section of the CCT and the next are all sandy beach, miles of it, except for the rocky tidal zone just south of the Capitola City Beach. Before you leave Capitola, check out the several blocks of quaint shops specializing in mostly tourist items from trinkets and T-shirts to shoes and seascapes, with plenty of places for a drink, ice cream and food.
Before attempting the rocky shore at the base of the cliffs, first make sure the tide is low or going out. If you try it, you will soon discover if it's passable. It's a nice walk at the base of fossil laced vertical cliffs for ⅝ mile to the sand at New Brighton Beach. If the tide is in, then from City Beach walk uphill on the sidewalk along Monterey Avenue until you reach the railroad tracks around ¼ mile. The locals use the track shoulder as a path to get from Capitola to New Brighton. You can either take the tracks or walk a few more yards and turn right on Park Avenue.
Either way, you end up overlooking New Brighton Beach. An informal trail that descends the bluff can be very slippery. It's best to continue to the parking lot around ⅞ mile and use the stairway down to the beach.
Walk the beach south, all sand walking to the section's end at Manresa State Beach. Notice an odd shaped pier ahead jutting into the surf. Walk the beach to the pier and Seacliff State Beach at 2⅜ miles. The pier extends toward an old ship, a rare supply ship built of cement for World War II but never used and later towed here in 1929. It served as an amusement center with a dance floor, swimming pool and arcade before falling into disrepair after several years. Now it is at the end of a public fishing pier. You'll find restrooms and a small store at the foot of the pier. Nearby is the Seacliff Visitor Center, open in summer, which has exhibits on fossils and a history of the ship.
Walk south along the beach or the road that extends along the base of the cliffs. The pavement is lined with State Park campsites, then private houses beyond the park boundary. These days it's almost impossible to build houses right on the beach.
Continue down the long beach. After the last of the houses, 100-foot high cliffs block views of most development and the beach is quiet and secluded.
Manresa State Beach is about 4 miles down the coast, plenty of distance to stride out and work out the kinks, or run, or go for a lazy stroll. At 6⅜ miles watch for a steep, long stairway coming down the bluff. It marks the end of this section. The next section continues along the beach. If you're day hiking and have left a car at Manresa, take the stairs to the Manresa State Beach parking lot at 6½ miles.
SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Start from either New Brighton, Seacliff or Manresa State Beaches to explore miles of beach.
Distance: 6⅜ miles (10.3 kilometers).
Open to: Hikers.
Surface: Beach, short road shoulder stretch.
Access point: Capitola.
How to get there: From Highway 1 east of Santa Cruz, take the Bay Avenue exit. Head west, then turn right onto Capitola Avenue, or continue straight. Both will bring you to the beach before one mile.
Other access: New Brighton State Beach, Seacliff State Beach.
Elevation gain/loss: 60 feet+/60 feet-.
Cautions: Parking is a problem at Capitola on weekends and in summer. Take the free shuttle. Low tide required to walk first ⅝ mile of beach. Much of the walk is on soft sand.
Further information: New Brighton State Beach (831)464-6330. Seacliff State Beach (831)685-6500.
Facilities: Restrooms and water at both ends, New Brighton State Beach and Seacliff State Beach.
Campgrounds: New Brighton State Beach and Seacliff State Beach have campgrounds.
Lodging: Santa Cruz Hostel (831)423-8304. Lodging in Capitola and throughout the area.
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