Land of the Medicine Buddha hike
Buddha meets big red on a 5.8-mile round-trip hike that brings a little bit of Tibet to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Tucked among 108 acres of coastal redwoods in Soquel, the Land of Medicine Buddha (LMB) loop is a spoonful of tranquility. Start on an unmarked but well-trodden trail that follows a gentle creek for about a mile before winding through forest and crossing the water to begin a short and undulating climb canopied by a cathedral of redwoods. Merge into an oak grove where sunlight slips through, (watch for poison oak!) before reaching the final, colorful stretch: the mile-long 8 Verses Pilgrimage Trail is lined with benches and signs offering contemplative Buddhist sayings. Prayer flags adorn a section of the trail that leads to a Buddhist retreat center where a gong, the largest prayer wheel on the West Coast, gilded bodhisattvas and a glowing Buddha greet you at loop’s end. Dalai delightful.

To reach Land of Medicine Buddha, take Hwy. 1 just south of Santa Cruz; exit Porter St./Bay Ave. and turn left under the freeway. Turn right onto Main St., which merges into Glenhaven Rd. Follow for half a mile and turn right onto Prescott Rd., which leads to the parking area just before a wood bridge. Walk up the paved incline toward the parking lot and you’ll see an unmarked trail to the left before the wooden sign for Land of Medicine Buddha, which points to the Land of Medicine Buddha retreat center and school (visit the retreat center first to pick up a map). The trail to the left of this wooden sign is the start of the 5.8-mile loop. Make a big clockwise loop. Follow the trail beside the creek for just over 1 mile. After crossing the creek, keep right at major forks. After 5 miles you'll reach the signed 8 Versus Pilgrimage Trail, where you turn left and return back to the retreat center. Dog-friendly!