On Loch Lomond Reservoir.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Zip line the redwoods, take a forest bath, ride the rails, row a boat — choose your own Felton summer adventure

No matter your budget, the ages and size of your crew and how you like your fun (active, chill, noisy, peaceful, with or without an adult beverage at hand ...), chances are you can find something in Felton to make summer memories to cherish. Take our quiz and let Ashley Spencer be your guide from there.

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There is a pressure of expectation on summer days — that we will be outdoors exploring, making the most of the weather and, even more daunting, “making memories.” The lazy 10-year-old in me is lolling on the floor in the sun, protesting that there is nothing to do and I’m bored. The parent in me insists that we make a plan, get in the car and do something. Frequently we find ourselves on an adventure right nearby in Felton, and I think maybe you should try it, too.

Felton offers a playground of things to do that are surprisingly accessible. You can saunter among sun-dappled old-growth redwoods — a walk and soothing forest bath that my 93-year-old aunt managed with ease. Or try zip lining 150 feet above the forest floor — surprisingly, it’s an activity equally appropriate to happily gamboling teenagers or a group of women celebrating their 80th birthdays; I’ve suited up in safety harnesses with both, and we have all had a lovely time. Something more sedate? You prefer water-based activities? Head to Loch Lomond, where you can rent a rowboat or cast a fishing line, or check out the newly reopened Trout Farm Inn and lounge by the pool for a day. Roaring Camp Railroad is in full swing with two trains a day each way to and from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and three more steam trains chugging up Bear Mountain.

Take this quiz and find your perfect adventure — then scroll down to learn more about it.


Redwood Grove Loop Trail

The Fremont tree at Henry Cowell.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Of all the suggestions about how to destress and clear your head, this is a sure-fire solution. Any age and any level of determined grumpiness can be charmed to civility with a walk around the redwood loop. It’s a 20-minute flat walk on a well-maintained, wide path through old-growth redwoods — stroller friendly.

Walkers are first greeted with a cross section of an old-growth tree, with labels at the rings that would have been new at the birth of Christ, the invention of paper, gunpowder, the printing press and so on. It’s a stunning piece of history and puts a visit to the redwood grove in context, as our history is merely tacked on to the arc of time these trees have been standing. Along the way there is an excellent visitors center and free loaner maps marking 10 points of special interest to take note of along the way (excellent for small children to race to the next number, or for visitors who gather interesting tidbits).

The midpoint showstopper is the John C. Fremont tree, which is 270 feet tall (the height of a 25-story building!) and was visited by Teddy Roosevelt himself. At the peak of drought or the middle of winter, the forest is green and calm with sunlight filtered in a way that invariably demands a new photo. We have done this walk maybe a hundred times over the past 20 years; with kids, visitors, at the outset or close of a day — in a moment of addled crisis — and it soothes without fail.

Fees: $10 per vehicle for a California State Parks day pass | Hours: The park is open and staffed from 8 a.m. to sunset | Time: 20-minute, flat walk — or follow one of these longer or more strenuous hiking options

Lime kilns trail, Fall Creek Unit

The Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

This second-growth redwood forest is lovely. This trail in the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park follows Fall Creek, which is boisterous and, according to a ranger I spoke to, “particularly magical this year.” The path is well marked with trail signs and leads up to ruins of Henry Cowell’s historic limestone kilns. If you look beyond the kilns at the top of the hike, you’ll see the remnants of the edges of the CZU fire. For this fire road was the line where firefighters from all over the country chose to make their stand, and their efforts saved the rest of the park, and indeed, the town of Felton. I can’t help but say a short prayer of appreciation to all of the people who came to fight the fires and protect these remarkable natural resources — and this pretty town.

Fees: Parking in the lot is $10 per vehicle | Hours: The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset | Time: About an hour and a half for a 3-mile loop with elevation of 300 feet

Just 60 miles or less from just about anywhere in Santa Cruz County, Monterey makes a great destination for families and...

Redwood Rx

The Mountain Parks Foundation has created an array of experiences: yoga, meditation, art classes and support workshops to honor the connection between nature and health. These nature-based guided programs aim to help participants develop a deeper connection to our forests to bring positive impact to their overall well-being. Many programs take place in the main Henry Cowell or Fall Creek parks and require online registration and fees.


The Beach Train

Roaring Camp's beach train at the Boardwalk.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Chugging through the redwoods and downtown Santa Cruz in an open-air train car to arrive at the Boardwalk is utterly delightful. It shows off our rare proximity of towering redwoods to the beach (a mere 7 miles), and riding in the historic train over the trestle is a glorious and giddy experience. Kids wave to passersby on the street as the train rolls through town as if they are in a parade, and even midweek the adventure feels like a holiday. This historic train route goes through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge to cross a steel truss bridge (built in 1909) and a tunnel (1875) before rolling through the heart of town to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Schedule: Trains leave at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day and return at noon and 4 p.m., which gives riders the option of an hour at the Boardwalk, or five hours to make a day of it and enjoy the beach and wharf as well.

Fee: $42 adults / $28 kids for a round-trip ticket | Time: The journey takes an hour each way

Bear Mountain Train

Roaring Camp Railroad's Shay steam locomotive Sonora.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Train fanatic in your family? This is your adventure, with a friendly conductor who narrates the history of these narrow-gauge steam locomotives, used long ago to haul giant redwood logs out of the mountains and build San Francisco. Roaring Camp has some of the oldest and best-preserved steam engines in the nation, three of them designated as National Mechanical Engineering Historical Landmarks, and the people who engineer and care for them are wildly interesting. This trip takes you up to the top of Bear Mountain, where passengers are invited to get out and walk among the redwoods before the train wends its way back down impressive 8% grades, the steepest in the western United States. An unmistakable sound of summer in the area, the Roaring Camp steam train whistle, accompanies every ride.

Schedule: Trains leave at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. on weekdays, with an additional 3 p.m. train on weekends.

Fee: $40 adults / $25 kids (plus parking, see below) | Time: The journey up and back is 75 minutes

Moonlight Dinner Train

The perfect “off the beaten path” date night! Begin with a barbecue featuring craft beers, local wines and apple pie, then hop aboard the Bear Mountain steam train for a trip to the top, where hot cider and live music await. Line dancing, anyone?

Schedule: July 1, Aug. 26 and Sept. 30, beginning at 6 p.m.

Fee: $70 adults / $50 kids | Time: Four hours, including dinner, train ride, musical entertainment and dessert

Note: Roaring Camp charges a parking fee of $10 per vehicle. Picnic tables are available for a $25 all-day rental fee, and there are large lawns that welcome picnic blankets for free. To reserve a table, call the ticket office at 831-335-4484.


Redwood Canopy Tour

Zip lining, fun for all ages.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Ever scaled a redwood? In the mood for a thrill? Suit up and zoom through the forest with a bird’s-eye view. Six zip lines are arranged amid the redwood canopy at varying exhilarating lengths and heights, up to 150 feet above the forest floor. You’ll gear up and go through a safety training, take a practice round near the ground, and then head out to begin the 90-minute course. Guides along the way are eager to share their knowledge of local plants and animals, as well as the unique ecology of a redwood forest. Mount Hermon is known for its friendly staff, well versed in easing the fears of first-timers and height-averse guests. On a personal note, we have done this tour with teenagers, kids as young as 10 and once, a group of women celebrating their 80th birthdays, to consistent, enthusiastic reviews. It’s not cheap, but this is a fun, “never have I ever” experience, both memorable and unique.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday; closed Wednesdays | Time: Two hours, including 30 minutes for gear and safety training | Fee: $120 weekdays, $129 Friday through Sunday

The 30-mile stretch of coast north of Santa Cruz between Año Nuevo and Pescadero offers a wealth of options for families...

Sequoia Aerial Adventure

This self-directed challenge is a ropes course 80 feet in the air with three progressive levels of difficulty. There are 40 elements to navigate, including two zip lines, and guests can choose their own elements and opt out at almost any point (some elements, once begun, don’t have an exit point midway). Again, the staff is there to make the experience fun and are well versed in offering assistance and encouragement as needed. This option demands a reasonable comfort with heights because you navigate a number of wobbly, difficult elements. Guests are strapped into safety harnesses throughout the course and can fall no farther than to sit down, but real willingness and moderate athleticism are necessary to move through the course and enjoy it.

Mount Hermon Adventures' zip line course.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday; closed Wednesdays | Time: Two hours, including 30 minutes for gear and safety training | Fee: $90 weekdays, $99 Friday through Sunday


The pool at the Trout Farm Inn.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

We’ve all waited for the return of the Trout Farm Inn for ages, and it’s open! The restaurant and bar are busy, serving an interesting menu of refreshing cocktails, frozen poolside palomas and frosés along with an appealing list of menu items. The giant pretzel with jalapeño cheese is a consistent hit, as are the prawn cocktail, the salads and — I offer this up without irony — the whole trout, which is deboned and arrives with fresh baby lettuces and fennel fronds on top.

The bar at the Trout Farm Inn.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Food and beverage service is available poolside; no outside food or beverages are allowed.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily | Fees: $25 per person; children under 2 are free and may use only the shallow water pool; cabanas are $120, with poolside space for six guests | Happy hour: 4-7 p.m., and the $20 entrance fee includes a free beverage


Loch Lomond Reservoir.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The expression “hidden gem” is so overused — and yet, after a 10-minute winding drive up through deep redwood forest, up and through neighborhoods that offer little suggestion of what you’ll find at the end of that road: the Loch Lomond Reservoir is 3 miles long, serene, undeveloped and surrounded by lush, green forests. It is the ideal location for a picnic, a weeknight row around the lake or to cast a line, for the lake is stocked with trout and home to bluegill, catfish and largemouth bass. The park store has both bait and fishing licenses.

If you’re anything like I am, the minute the boat leaves the dock everything fades to the background as I trail a hand in the water, gaze into middle distance and marvel at my luck. Clearly, I’m not the person at the oars. Every time we make the short trek to Loch Lomond I wonder why we don’t go more often; it’s lovely, nearby and so easy to rent a boat and get out on the water. Do not be deterred by how long it’s been since you have worked an oar — families were literally paddling backward on a recent evening and having a hilarious time going in circles. The staff boat kindly came along to offer advice and make sure they were OK, aware of the spectacle, but they were perfectly happy working to push the wide end of the boat forward with a determined kid at each oar.

The park store at Loch Lomond Reservoir.
(Ashley Spencer / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Loch Lomond is set in a deep, narrow canyon surrounded by Douglas firs and redwoods. Outside boats and kayaks are prohibited, and dogs must remain on land. Cellphone signals can be iffy on the drive up, so download driving directions ahead of time. Loch Lomond is a 10-minute drive from central Felton. Find a Loch Lomond map here.

Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset; closed Wednesdays | Fee: $8 per vehicle before 4 p.m.

Aluminum rowboats, peddle boats and sit-on-top kayaks are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis.

Weekdays: $15 for two hours; $7.50 each hour thereafter, $90 all day; weekends (and holidays before noon): $45 for three hours; $15 each hour thereafter, $90 all day.

Note: A limited number of boats may be reserved for the maximum daily rate by calling 831-335-7424 at least one day prior. No refunds are given.