Santa Cruz, California, USA
Summer Hours (April 1-October 31) Sunrise-7:00 p.m.
Winter Hours (November 1-March 31) Sunrise-4:00 p.m.
Alcohol, Smoking, Camping, and Fires prohibited.
For more information, call 831-420-5270

Pogonip is a park in Santa Cruz, forming part of that city's(and county's) greenbelt, purchased in 1988 with funding from the CALPAW State Bond Act. Encompassing 640 acres of meadow and woods, Pogonip is primarily restricted to use by hikers. It contains a number of historic sites in varying degrees of disrepair, and supports a significant number of different plant and animal species.


Pogonip is bounded primarily by UC Santa Cruz and the San Lorenzo River. California's Highway 9 passes through a portion of lower pogonip on its way from its genesis at Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, on its way to Los Gatos. Access is provided from Golf Club Drive, just to the west of Highway 9. You can also park at Harvey West Park, from which there is an uphill climb (optionally through a very nice old Cemetery) into the park. There is also a limited amount of parking at the end of Spring Street, which terminates at Pogonip.


Pogonip is believed to have been used as a resource by the Ohlone Indians who are known to have lived in the region. In fact, Pogonip park is ostensibly named for Pogonip Creek, in turn named with a Shoshone Pauite word referring to a type of ice fog, though also reputed to mean "river fog" or "ground fog". However, few of the local Ohlone survived the founding and subsequent influence of the Santa Cruz Mission, in 1791, whose records indicate a tribelet in the area known as the "Uypi". The area was logged extensively in the mid 1800s, and there are only three old growth redwoods standing in the park today. Around the same time, limestone was quarried there, and the matching lime kilns still stand today. In fact, young redwood trees whose growth threatened the kilns have actually been removed to preserve these historic sites.

Pogonip (and several surrounding properties) were part of the "Canada del Rincon en el Rio San Lorenzo de Santa Cruz" land grant, given to one Pierre Sansevain in 1843. Much of the land (including Pogonip and what is now the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park) was purchased from Sansevain in the late 1850s by Albion Jordan and Isaac Davis, who used the land for logging and lime production, hence the lime kilns common in the area. Henry Cowell acquired Jordan's interest in the land in 1865, about 3,800 acres in all. In 1888, Cowell acquired the remainder of the land and created what would later be known as the Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Company.

In 1912, the Casa del Rey Club and Golf Links was established just a year after construction completed in 1911. The clubhouse and golf course were taken over by the Santa Cruz Golf Club, whose lease ended in 1935. The club's popularity was cut short due to competition from other courses in the area in the 1930s., primarily the Pasatiempo golf course, which lies just north of Santa Cruz on what is now Highway 17. The fields were then used for polo, and the establishment rechristened The Pogonip Social and Polo Club, which was significant for its early (and somewhat unique) acceptance of coed polo games.

The tradition of polo at Pogonip ended with World War II, and for a short time the facilities served as a rehabilitation site for servicemen - Especially interesting as the town we now know as Santa Cruz was originally peopled (Except insofar as the Ohlone Indians are concerned) by Mexican war veteran retirees. The Pogonip Club reopened in 1948 as a private social organization, but due to earthquake damage the clubhouse was declared to be unsafe to the public in 1988.

The clubhouse is now boarded shut, and even the park rangers who patrol the park (often on horseback) do not enter the building. The clubhouse was designed by architect L.D. Esty in the "early twentieth century Craftsman Bungalow" style. The building features unstripped redwood log pillars on the front porch, as well as further unstripped redwood uses for the tailing and balusters of the second-story deck. I chanced to visit Pogonip on day when they were surveying the clubhouse, and took a peek inside. I'm left mostly with an impression of high ceilings, and redwood everywhere. The subfloor of the structure is made up of gigantic redwood beams, some of which individually must weigh more than a small car. Sadly, when electricity was retrofitted into the building, some of these beams were notched to pass the wiring. The University of California got their hands on the Western portion of the lands, over 2,000 acres, in 1961. The remaining 614 acres eventually became known as Pogonip. Since the City of Santa Cruz acquired Pogonip in 1989, the clubhouse, tennis courts, and swimming pool (which is now filled in) have been closed to public use.

Flora and Fauna

Pogonip's flora is comprised mostly of mixed evergreen forest, in this case oak, madrone, bay, and various conifers, and upland redwood forest, comprised of redwoods and douglas fir. There are also small stands of coast live oak. California's Northernmost stand of central cost cottonwood/sycamore occurs along the San Lorenzo River, in an area known as the Sycamore Grove. The Pogonip main meadow is populated primarily by non-native grasses, though the native habit still exists in some parts, comprised partially of Santa Cruz Clover (Trifolium buckwestorium) and the San Francisco Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys diffusus). One should also keep a sharp eye out for poison oak, as it is almost literally everywhere, especially in those places where it would be difficult to pick out from other plants, perhaps most significantly because deer have been known to consume its leaves.

As for animals, Pogonip contains the usual complement of creatures for any wild, low-lying part of Santa Cruz County, including black-tailed jackrabbits, California ground squirrels, Botta's pocket gophers, California voles, and black-tailed deer. On the predator side of things, there are various raptors (including red-tailed hawks), coyote, fox, and bobcat, as well as the occasional mountain lion. On the slimier side, you'll also find the Pacific giant salamander, California newt, and UC Santa Cruz's lovable (and high in vitamin C) mascot, the banana slug. Naturally, all fauna (and flora!) is protected.

Future Plans

The city is planning to enhance the Pogonip property in a number of ways. Most of these upgrades involve building, rebuilding, or extending some of the trails which wind their way through the park. The city council is also considering plans to restore the clubhouse, create an outdoor education camp to promote "interactive environmental education", create a "Nature Area" at Sycamore Grove, and develop an organic garden site at Pogonip to aid the Homeless Garden Project.


No discussion of the Pogonip use area is complete without a thorough dissection of its trails, especially since the most common (and approved) use is hiking. Pogonip contains nearly eight miles of prepared trails, plus many more miles of smaller tracks which wind through the hills and over and around the many small creeks which crisscross the park at most times of year. The Rincon, Rincon Connector, and U-Con Trails, all of which interconnect with other parks (including Henry Cowell) are multi-use trails, allowing bicylists and equestrian use. A few narrow trails disallow dogs, even on a leash (all dogs in the park must, of course, be leashed.)

HIKING TRAILS (Dogs permitted on leash)

  • Brayshaw Trail (0.5 mi.)
    Moderate, unpaved service road with steep climb near Spring Trail.
    The Brayshaw Trail is approximately ten feet in width. It connects the upper main meadow area with the Spring Trail. In its steepest section the trail exceeds a 25 percent grade.
  • Fern Trail (0.8 mi.)
    Moderate to difficult, trail not improved or well-marked in vicinity of Redwood Creek.
    The Fern Trail, in the Northeastern portion of Pogonip, runs between the Brayshaw and Rincon trails. At irs Northern end, the trail passes through the Haunted Meadow, which contains several rare plant species.
  • Limekiln Trail (0.3 mi.)
    Easy to moderate.
    The Limekiln Trail existed only as an informal footpath at the time of the City's acquisition of the property. It was later improved to a three to four foot wide path to minimize erosion and encourage use of the actual trail route. The aforementioned lime kilns are located at the southern end of the trail, which parallells the Rincon Trail route, at least for the most part.
  • Lower Meadow (0.6 mi.)
    This trail (which is currently made up of a combination of informal footpaths and prepared trails) forms a loop connecting the Golf Club Drive entrance to Pogonip, the Lower Main Meadow parking lot (which does not yet exist), the Pogonip garden, and the clubhouse. Parts of this trail are currently maintained to provide a firebreak along the eastern edge of the lower main meadow.
  • Ohlone Trail (0.3 mi.)
    Moderate, some steep climbs.
    This trail, approximately three to four feet in width, provides a path between the Brayshaw and Spring trails.
  • Rincon Trail (0.9 mi.)
    Moderate, unpaved service road, hiking only between Coolidge Drive and U-Con Trail.
    The Rincon trail is believed to have been constructed in the mid-to-late ]nineteenth century as a part of the limestone quarrying operation. About ten feet wide, this trail runs from Glen Coolidge Drive at UC Santa Cruz, through Pogonip, to Highway 9. The Rincon fire road continues within Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which it is open to pedestrian, equestrian, and bicycle use. The trail has an overall grade of about six percent.
  • Spring Trail (1.6 mi.)
    Easy, unpaved service road.
    The spring trail is also considered to be a history feature. It runs from the terminus of Spring Street (one of the accesses to Pogonip) to the Rincon Trail.
  • Spring Box Trail (0.2 mi.)
    Moderate, access to spring areas, no bathing.
    The Spring Box Trail is a rapidly-eroding set of footpaths created by pedestrians over the past few years. It connects between the Spring Trail and the Rincon Trail.


  • Lookout Trail (0.5 mi.)
    Moderate to difficult, some steep climbs
    The Lookout trail extends from the Wavecrest property (Near Harvey West Park to the Spring Trail, climbing some 200 feet in the process. The trali is approximately three or four feet in width. The trail also climbs to the Lookout area on UC Santa Cruz's property.
  • Pogonip Creek Nature Trail (1.2 mi.)
    Moderate, loop-trail.
    This trail is a loop route connecting pieces of the previously existing Old Stables Trail and the original Pogonip Creek Trail. It passes through nearly every type of terrain found inside Pogonip, including coastal terrace prairie, mixed evergreen forest, central coast riparian scrub, redwood stands, and a bay grove.
  • Prairie Trail (0.3 mi.)
    This relatively short trail, in the northernmost tip of Pogonip, was constructed after the City acquired the property, in order to provide a connection to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The trail is located within upland redwood forest. This trail crosses Highway 9 to the south of the existing parking lot at the Rincon fire road entrance.
  • Sycamore Grove Trail (1 mile)
    Unimproved trails, access to San Lorenzo River
    This trail includes a nature loop within the Sycamore Grove Nature Area, and a connection across Highway 9 and the railroad (Which was formerly Southern Pacific line, sold to the Roaring Camp and Big Trees railroad in 1985) to the Brayshaw Trail. A portion of this route was previously known as the Redwood Trail. A portion of this trail follows an old roadbed.

MULTI-USE TRAILS (Hikers, Bicycles, and Horses)

  • Rincon Connector Trail (0.2 mi.)
    Moderate, single-track trail connecting Pogonip to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, no dogs
  • U-Con Trail (UCSC Connector Trail) (0.5 mi.)
    Moderate, single-track trail, 10 to 12 percent gradient connecting Pogonip to UCSC, no dogs
    This trail runs between the Rincon Trail service road and the Fuel Break fire road on the UCSC Campus. Fuel Break connects to the Chinquipin TRail, which then contrinues across the upper campus lands, ultimate providing access to the Wilder Ranch State Park, formerly a dairy farm.

Closing Thoughts

So, aside from its historical significant and obvious natural grandeur, what makes Pogonip a place worth visiting? First of all, if you're in Santa Cruz, it's nearby. This is a boon not to be ignored in a world where the larger State Park lands and similar use facilities are frequently located quite remotely from towns and cities. Second, it's an amazingly peaceful place. The wide swaths of meadow and miles of unmarked footpath trails provide a place where one can lose oneself (quite literally, if one should forget that the way to get un-lost in the hills is to go down them) in solitude. And of course, it is an excellent and popular place to study both plants and animals native to the West Coast. It provides many miles of trails of varying steepness and difficulty, and anyone should be able to find a path to their liking.


  1. Website: City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation, Pogonip Master Plan (http://www.santacruzparksandrec.com/pogonip/pogonip.html)
  2. Website: City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation, Pogonip (http://www.santacruzparksandrec.com/parks/pogo.html)
  3. Website: Travel by Road, Happy Campers - The Pogonip and Spring Street Quarry (http://www.travelbyroad.net/site_articles/pogonip.html)
  4. Website: Roaring Camp Railroad, News Archive - History Comes to Life (http://www.roaringcamp.com/historynews5.html)

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