Northwest of Santa Cruz, the 18,000 acre Big Basin State Park is home to the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco, with old growth and recovering Redwood Forest, mixed conifers, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Get ready for foggy and damp near the ocean and sunny, warm ridgetops (2,000). The park has a surprising number of waterfalls, a wide variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes, many animals (deer, raccoons, an occasional bobcat) and lots of bird life-- including Steller's jays, egrets, herons and California woodpeckers. Overall, there are over 70 miles of trails with many open to horseback riding.
The main park entrance is 25 miles northwest of Santa Cruz via Highways 9 and 236 and about 65 miles south of San Francisco. All roads into Big Basin are curvy.
The Waddell Creek - Rancho Del Oso area offers a variety of recreational opportunities. The entrance for this area is 16 miles north of Santa Cruz via US1 across from Waddell Beach.
There is an extensive bridle trail system with routes from 14 to 40 miles long. An important plus is that the beach is also open to riding.
Overall, Waddell Creek - Rancho Del Oso is the 5th most popular horse trail of all 81 horseback rides in California.