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Lighthouse Field State Beach

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.
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

West Cliff Drive Bicycle Path

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.

Terrain: Hard


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.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Visitor Center: Accessible

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
View south toward lighthouse
View south toward lighthouse (Martha Wegner)

Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • hiking
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: City of Santa Cruz and California State Parks
Address: 701 West Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz
Nearest City: Santa Cruz
Phone: Lighthouse Field SB: (831) 429-2850; City of Santa Cruz: (831) 420-5030
Hours: Park: Sunrise to sunset
Visitor center: Thurs.–Mon., noon-4 pm; summer hours (July 4 through Labor Day) Wed.–Mon., 10 am-5 pm
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
Public Transportation: Santa Cruz Metro 
Useful Links: Santa Cruz Surfing Museum 
Reviewed by Martha Wegner, February 26, 2009
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
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Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
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Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
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