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Santa Cruz Scenic Spots: A Landscape Photographer's Favorite Gems

Santa Cruz Scenic Spots, Local Photographers Favorite Gems

As a landscape photographer, I've spent countless hours exploring the beautiful scenery in and around Santa Cruz, CA. Over the years, I've discovered some truly special locations that are near and dear to my heart. In this article, I want to share some of my favorite scenic spots with you, so you can experience the beauty of this amazing place for yourself. 

  1. Wilder Ranch State Park: This park has some of the most stunning coastal views in Santa Cruz. From the cliffs above the ocean, you can see miles of pristine coastline, dotted with jagged rocks and tide pools. And when the sun sets, the colors of the sky are absolutely breathtaking. There are also some great hiking trails in the park, so you can explore the scenery up close.
  2. Big Basin Redwoods State Park: This park is home to some of the oldest and tallest redwood trees in the world. Walking through the forest, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time to a prehistoric era. The light that filters through the trees is simply magical, and there are countless streams, waterfalls, and other natural features to photograph. It's a truly awe-inspiring place.
  3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: This park is another great spot for redwood trees, but it also has some other unique features. One of my favorite places in the park is the Garden of Eden swimming hole, which is tucked away in a secluded spot along the San Lorenzo River. It's a great place to cool off on a hot day and take some amazing photos of the lush, green surroundings.
  4. Shark Fin Cove: This is one of the most iconic spots along the Santa Cruz coastline. The rock formation in the shape of a shark fin is truly unique, and it's surrounded by some of the most beautiful tide pools in the area. The cove is also a great spot for sunsets, as the sun dips below the horizon and casts a warm, orange glow over the water.
  5. Natural Bridges State Beach: This beach is named for the natural rock bridges that stretch out over the water. The bridges are truly impressive, and they provide a great backdrop for photos of the beach and the waves. And during the winter months, the beach is also a great spot to watch the migration of the monarch butterflies, which come to the area in large numbers.
  6. Pogonip Open Space Preserve: This preserve is located in the heart of Santa Cruz, but it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The rolling hills and forests provide some amazing views, and there are also some great trails for hiking or mountain biking. And if you're lucky, you might even spot some wildlife, like deer or coyotes.
  7. Davenport Beach: This beach is a bit off the beaten path, but it's definitely worth the trip. The rugged coastline and dramatic cliffs provide a stunning backdrop for photos, and there are some great waves for surfing or watching surfers. And if you're lucky, you might even spot some whales or dolphins swimming in the ocean.

These are just a few of my favorite scenic spots in Santa Cruz. I hope this list inspires you to get out and explore the natural beauty of this amazing place. Whether you're a photographer or just someone who loves the outdoors, there's something truly special about the landscapes in Santa Cruz. So grab your camera, hit the trails, and see what you can discover.


Greg Milligan
Photographer & Owner
Santa Cruz Art Prints

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