A popular destination for surfers, bicyclists, and dog walkers, Lighthouse Field State Beach lies south of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and north of Natural Bridges State Park. There is no wheelchair access to the beach, but a pathway that runs for almost three miles along the cliffs next to West Cliff Drive provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy ocean views and look for marine life. Housed inside the Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse is the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, the world’s first surfing museum. Watch for surfers heading down the stairs toward renowned Steamer Lane. Be sure to bring your binoculars.
Visitor center: Displays trace 100 years of Santa Cruz surfing history, including surfboard designs from early to modern. Photos and videos demonstrate surfing styles through time.
West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path
see access criteria for definitions
Trailhead: You can access the walkway at many points along West Cliff Drive.
Length: 2-4 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
The trail can be crowded on weekends and after work, but there’s enough room to travel in a wheelchair.
Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle
There is a steep section from Cowell Beach to about a tenth of a mile past the hotels, after which the trail levels out.
The paved bicycle and pedestrian path along West Cliff Drive starts at the Santa Cruz Wharf and gently climbs uphill for close to three miles, to Natural Bridges State Park. As you leave Cowell Beach, you will encounter one of the few steep inclines–less than an eighth of a mile, which levels out past a couple of hotels. Look back for a panoramic view of Santa Cruz Wharf and down the cliff to see surfers at Cowell’s, which has great waves for longboards. The path frequently veers away from the road’s edge and runs along a blufftop covered with ice plant. You’ll find benches and water fountains at several spots along the way.
In about a mile, just off Point Santa Cruz, you will pass Steamer Lane, a famous surf spot for year-round competitions. On the other side of the point you can watch sea lions bask in the sun and see waves crashing for miles up the coastline. The path ends in another mile at Natural Bridges State Park. Along this stretch are amazing panoramic views. Beaches appear at low tide, but there is no wheelchair access.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Visitor Center: Yes
Beach Wheelchair: No
Accessible Parking: Yes
Along West Cliff Drive by lighthouse, at lot just outside entrance to Natural Bridges State Park, and at entrance to Cowell Beach at southernmost end of West Cliff Drive
Accessible Restroom: Yes
Near lighthouse and Cowell Beach
Hours: Park is sunrise to sunset and the visitor center is open Thurs.–Mon., noon-4 pm; summer hours (July 4 through Labor Day) Wed.–Mon., 10 am-5 pm
Map: See here.
Dogs: On a leash
Public Transportation: Santa Cruz Metro