The Nisene Marks State Park, located just right off Hwy 1 near Santa Cruz, California, is a beautiful peaceful redwood forest on the coast. It became a State Park in 1963 by donation of the Marks family and was also the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The Park is about 9,600 acres, but majority of the park is not accessible. If you are looking to picnic there are tables and barbecues located next to the parking lot where the trail head is.
There is only one ADA by law trail that leads to an overlook with a picnic table that is extended for wheelchair access and that is the Waggnor Trail which is .12 miles long. The overlook looks down into a forested canyon with a creek, which is Aptos Creek. Now there are a few other trails that are possible but just not ADA law.
At the end of the Waggnor Trail, the trail splits off to the Aptos Ranch Trail. The Aptos Ranch Trail pretty much follows the fire road, but there is no accessible access to the fire road from the trail. The trail is pretty flat most of the way till about .5 miles down the trail and then it gets hilly. Maybe a power chair could do the climb, but we just turned around. The pathway is packed dirt and from the pathway, in certain spots, you can wonder into the forest and get a real feel for nature. After you’ve turned around you can either go back on the Waggnor Trail or continue on the Aptos Ranch Trail. Both will lead back to the parking lot.
The Aptos Ranch Trail branches off to some other trails that lead you deeper into the forest but the trails are steep and would be difficult for most to do. If you have the strength and will power to see some awesome old trees, you may want to try. To get back to the parking lot from the Aptos Ranch Trail, you will have to take either the Spilt Stuff Trail or the Loop Trail. Both are easy and not much of a gradient.
Despite the fact that there is a lot to see at this park and only a very small portion is accessible for wheelchair users, you will still find yourself being there for a couple of hours. Getting lost in the smells and feel of the forest.
- Bathrooms: The restrooms are located in the parking lot and they are vault style.
- Parking: Two designated accessible spots are near the trailhead.
- Dogs: Yes, on a leash.