Scotts Valley: Iconic landmarks and can’t-miss institutions

Views for miles from the observation deck at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: A year-round campground, hiking trails, horse trails and well-established mountain biking tracks make this state park special. There’s no need to drive to Felton to use the park’s main entrance off Highway 9 — leave that for the tourists. Simply enter at various unmarked trailheads along Graham Hill Road. From there, you have access to the observation deck with panoramic views of the bay, or you can venture deeper and end up at the San Lorenzo River. (Get a map first. It’s easy to get turned around.) Looking for an inexpensive getaway? Book a weekend at the campground and unplug for a few days immersed in the forest. If you forget a few supplies, town is only a five-minute drive or 15-minute walk away.

Glenwood Open Space Preserve: This 170-acre preserve was slated to be a golf course before a concerned group of citizens upended that plan in 1993. The forest, meadows, riparian areas and wetlands remain undeveloped. The land is divided into east and west zones, so dog walkers and cyclists have space from equestrians. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County partners with the city to protect the land’s rare and endangered species, including the Ohlone tiger beetle, Opler’s longhorn moth and the Scotts Valley spineflower. It is a great place to take a wildflower walk in the spring, and new trails have opened since 2021.

Skypark: Once an airport used for training pilots in the 1940s, Skypark is now one of the largest parks in Santa Cruz County, featuring playgrounds, tennis, basketball and bocce courts, soccer fields, barbecue pits, a walking path, a 20,000-square-foot skate park, two dog parks and a dirt pump track. This is quite a facelift from the cracked runways and dirt jumps that inhabited the land at the end of the last century — and some millennials who grew up in the area will argue it was more fun that way. The manicured, well-kept public space now hosts most of the city’s major events, including the Art, Wine & Beer Festival and the county’s only permitted Fourth of July Fireworks show. I know brilliant skaters who drive from Santa Cruz regularly to skate at the Tim Brauch Memorial Skatepark. They bring their kids, too, because the park is so versatile — challenging advanced and beginner skaters alike.

Catching some air at Tim Brauch Memorial Skatepark.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The library: Adjacent to Skypark is the Scotts Valley branch of Santa Cruz Public Libraries. The library is a resource for learners of all ages, featuring a large children’s area, study spaces and flexible rooms that adapt to programming needs. The branch is currently closed for Measure S improvements including a new roof, a new HVAC system and sound attenuation. It is due to reopen this summer.

Fun fact: The library occupies the building which once housed a roller rink. I can still see the ever-spinning disco ball and hear Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” when I step into this space. I must restrain myself from “shooting the duck” when browsing for books.

The Hiram D. Scott House, built in 1853, was built by the man many consider the founder of Scotts Valley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Hiram D. Scott House: Built in 1853, the Hiram D. Scott House is one of the city’s great slices of history. The Greek Revival-style house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is named for its builder, Hiram Daniel Scott, who bought the valley around the same time. Scott is considered the “founder” of the city — hence the name Scotts Valley.

Canepa Motorsports Museum: Scotts Valley houses what must be the most impressive inventory of cars and motorcycles around. Canepa restores and displays modern and historical rare cars and motorcycles. Owned by lifelong local Bruce Canepa, an accomplished racer in his own right, the inventory is astounding. Book a tour if you can.

Kings Village Shopping Center: The Kings Village Shopping Center on Mount Hermon Road is a one-stop shop that has housed some of the area’s icons — like the movie theater and restaurants — for years. It is, perhaps, an accidental town center in lieu of a prescribed town center. The shopping center is owned by the Ow family, who originally bought and developed the land in the 1960s. The Ow family is one of Santa Cruz’s oldest, and arguably most famous, surviving families.

Cars on display at the the Canepa Motorsport Museum in Scotts Valley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

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