Sunrise to Sunset
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
Here are some guidelines for people visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park:
What is open now (Beginning Saturday, May 16, 2020)?
The kiosk parking at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is open with reduced capacity. No parking along the road or at picnic areas. Visitors must wear masks at the kiosks for day use entry in accordance with Santa Cruz County health order.
What is currently closed at this park and throughout the State Park System?
- High public-use indoor facilities, including museums and visitor centers.
- Special events and tours continue to be canceled until further notice
Are there any new visitor guidelines?
Yes, please see below:
- Stay Local: Stay close to home. Walk or bike into the park. Parking is very limited. Do not take road trips to parks and beaches or to neighboring states.
- Stay Active: Keep walking, jogging, hiking and biking. Watch for one-way trails.
- Stay Safer at 6 Feet: Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Gatherings, picnics and parties are not allowed. Visitors will be asked to leave if there are too many people at the park, beach or on trails to allow for the required physical distance.
- Stay Clean: Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.
- Stay Covered: The state now requires you to wear a face covering in most indoor settings and public outdoor spaces when you cannot maintain physical distancing of six feet or more from people outside of your immediate household. For details, please visit CDPH’s guidance here. Visitors should also abide by their local county health orders.
Thank you for your patience and continued support of California State Parks as we work to limit your risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors. For more information, please visit parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.
Road and Trail ClosuresThe Upper Aptos Creek/Buzzard Lagoon Roadside Fuelbreak Project is a high priority CAL Fire project that will address Governor Newsom's Emergency Proclamation on Wildfire Risk. This project covers sections of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and the Soquel Demonstration Forest. Due to public safety hazards associated with heavy equipment operation, temporary road and trail closures are necessary.
Closures in effect: August 12, 2019 until project completion; Monday–Friday, daylight hours
All sections of Aptos Creek Fire Road and Ridge Trail in the Soquel Demonstration Forest are currently open. Phase I, II and IV are mostly completed with follow up work to continue when road conditions dry up. The beginning of Phase III is still pending available funding. Updates will be provided here when available.
Phase I: Upper Buzzard Lagoon Road and upper Aptos Creek Fire Road from Buzzard Lagoon Road intersection to Santa Rosalia Overlook at Ridge Trail intersection.
Phase II: Upper Aptos Creek Fire Road, from Ridge Trail intersection to Sand Point Overlook.
Phase III: Hinckley Fire Road from Sandpoint Overlook to Westridge Trail intersection.
Phase IV: Ridge Trail in Soquel Demonstration Forest.
Visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks
Off the beaten path, The Forest of Nisene Marks is a refreshing retreat from the busy towns and beaches along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz. Its dense second- and third-growth redwood forest rises from near sea level to steep coastal mountains.
Most visitors come to picnic near Aptos Creek or to hike, jog, or bike on 30 miles of trails in rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet.
The park’s land has a bittersweet beauty. Almost all of today’s redwood forest was clear-cut in a 40-year logging frenzy from 1883 to 1923. When the loggers left the Aptos Canyon, the forest began to heal itself; now, the scars grow fainter with each passing year. The Forest of Nisene Marks is a monument to forest regeneration and the future—it is a forest in a perpetual state of becoming.
The park's name honors Nisene Marks, the nature-loving mother of the Salinas farm family that bought the land in the 1950s. Her children donated approximately 9,700 acres to the state in 1963 with the provision that the land never be developed. Today, the park showcases a forest in recovery, with rugged canyons and remnants of its once-bustling railroad and logging industry. A grove of ancient old-growth redwood trees near the Pourroy picnic area was preserved under private ownership and added to the park in recent years.
Basic Park Information
FEES - There is a $8 vehicle day-use fee. [Regular Sized Auto: $8 (Senior $7, age 62 or older); Bus Parking (10-24 passengers): $50; Bus Parking (25+ passengers): $100]
BICYCLES are allowed only on Aptos Creek Fire Roak and four "hike-and-bike" single track trails below the steel bridge - the four trails are Aptos Rancho Trail, Split Stuff Trail, Terrace Trail, and Vienna Woods Trail.
DOGS are only allowed on Aptos Creek fire Road and the four single-track trails below the steel bridge (named above). Except for service animals, dogs are prohibited beyond the gate at the Porter picnic area parking lot. Dogs must be attended and on leashes no longer than six feet at all times. For a list of locations you can take your dog in Santa Cruz County, please click here.
HORSES are only allowed and the four single-track trails below the steel bridge (named above). Horses are not allowed past the steel bridge.
CAMPING - there is currently no camping in the park. West Ridge Trail Camp is closed.
FIRES are not allowed anywhere in the park.
Please click here to arrange an interpretive talk or guided experience for your organized community group (minimum 10 total participants, minimum 2 weeks' lead time). These interpretive services are contingent upon staff availability.
Volunteer with the Trail Crew
Visit http://www.advocatesfnm.org/ for details.
The Nisene Marks Volunteer Trail Crew helps make it possible for everyone to safely enjoy the beauty of our park. The Trail Crew meets the third Sunday of each month at 9:30am at the entrance kiosk, rain or shine. A typical workday lasts until mid-afternoon. Please bring your own work gloves, lunch, and water. Gain a unique perspective of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park; enjoy a lively and productive experience with others who share a love of these redwood forests. Learn the satisfaction of participating in a vital part of the park's ability to educate and inspire the public! Event made possible by the Advocates of Nisene Marks and the Nisene Marks Trail Crew.