Bike, Beach, Craft Brew

Bike from Watsonville to Sunset State Beach in Santa Cruz County

Escape the summer heat with the wind in your hair and your toes in the sand! This 12-mile (round-trip) gravel trail leads cyclists from Watsonville to the sandy shores of Sunset State Beach.

From the Riverside Road trailhead, head southwest on the Pajaro River Levee Trail. After a mile of quaint homes and cactus gardens, the buildings give way to huge stretches of farmland, including sweet-smelling strawberry fields and colorful rows of cabbage.

At the intersection with the Watsonville Wastewater Plant, break to enjoy the shaded picnic areas. (Tip: Those looking for a shorter ride can use this location as a starting point for a kid-friendly 6-mile round-trip pedal.) 

Cyclists interested in bird watching can continue along the trail until it dead-ends at the scenic wetlands, where ibis, kingfishers, and plovers can be spotted. But those interested in sunbathing at the beach should turn right at the intersection with Thurwachter Road, then left on Beach Street. Soak up the salty air as you pedal the last 1.5 miles to Sunset State Beach. Cyclists are admitted for free, and there is a bike rack located next to the bath house.

Climb the sandy hill to reach beautiful Palm Beach, perfect for a refreshing dip in the waves after a long ride. Visitors can make use of the picnic areas and bonfire pits before retracing their route back to Riverside Road.

BONUS: Looking for a post-ride meal? Head over to Fruition Brewing, a local brewhouse that sources their ingredients from the Watsonville farmlands. Enjoy live entertainment while sampling their selection of beer, cider, and gourmet bar snacks. (Heather recommends the Guava Punch Buzz and Grilled Cheese Deluxe.) Fruition Brewing is located at 918 E. Lake Avenue, in Watsonville.

The Riverside Road trailhead is located at the intersection of Bridge St. and Riverside Rd. in Watsonville. From US 101, exit onto CA-152/Hecker Pass. After 17.5 miles, turn left onto Blackburn St. in Watsonville. Park in the public lot or for free on Bridge St. Gravel or mountain bikes are recommended for this trail.

Story and photos by Heather Werner, heath.er.wer.ner

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