Pogonip Open Space in Santa Cruz: Day Hike

Today I felt inspired to go on a solo day hike. I want to thank my good friend Karen from Latinas Poderosas and my significant other Stephen to go on this much-needed hike.

I’ve hiked this local trail several times, but I’ve always followed Stephen and trusted him as my guide. Therefore today was a new adventure for me to figure out where to go!

Trail Map of Poganip Park

Basic Information for the Hike:

4 – 5 miles

2 – 3 Hours

1.5 Liters / 2 large reusable Water bottles preferably one with Nuun Sport

Sadly none.
Should have brought snacks or a sandwich.

FIRST STEP: Deciding What to Pack

My biggest flaw is not acknowledging that I always misjudge my packing time. Since I knew it was going to be 5 miles or less, I brought about two liters of water. I brought hand sanitizer, keys, tissues, camera, big lens, and chapstick, sunscreen, bandana, extra scrunchie, and sadly no food or Nuun Sport. No food/snacks or Nuun = big Heather mistake

Water to bring to Hiking Mileage Ratio:

5 miles = 1 liters minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal

I packed two reusable water bottles, which is probably equivalent to 48oz. These 1.5 liters was needed because it was hot and sunny outside.

My mistake was not bringing Nuun because I felt thirsty all the time. When you are thirsty, it means you already dehydrated.

Hot Hikes: Water to Hiking Mileage Ratio:
5 miles = 1 Liter of Regular Water; 1 Liter of Water with Electrolytes, preferably Nuun Sport maybe with Caffeine for a mid-hike energy boost.


I rode my bike close to the Santa Cruz Metro Office, which is on Golf Club Drive. You can park on that street and walk up to the trails. Since I cycled there, I locked my bike to the trail map area. If you decide to travel by bike you will need a rope and u-lock (or rope lock) to lock your bike securely.


I took the Emma McCray Trail, which is a multi-use trail for hikers, horses, and cyclists. Dogs are permitted on leash. It’s only 1.5 miles, and it’s uphill. You will see cyclists zooming downhill all the time. I do not recommend taking this trail mid-day on the weekend. It’s popular for cyclists, it can be an overwhelming amount of cyclists all going at the same time around 10:30a to the afternoon.

After the mult-use trail ended, there is another trail map to direct you where to go. I took the Rincon Trail to Spring Trail.

Per the map, it is a .7 miles a service road, which means it is easy to find and wide. That is the reason I took it, and I don’t want to get lost. As a reminder, I wanted an easy hike. I got a bit toasty and 2.2 miles into my walk I had finished my first liter. That is what I had predicted, which is the reason I bring 2 liters per 5 miles.

I took the Spring Trail road (1.6 miles total length) until it crossed the Brayshaw trail. Spring Trail road is marked as an easy unpaved service road. Easy and service road is music to my ears, which is the reason I took it.

When I arrived at the Brayshaw intersection, I turned left, which looks like a steep unpaved service road. If it is unusually steep, that is the correct trail.

You can take the .5 mile Brayshaw trail back to the start point, but I decided to take a detour when I saw this beauty of walking through the meadow.

I took Prairie Trail to the Pogonip Creek Trail aka Pogonip Creek Nature Loop. The Brayshaw to Prairie Trail wasn’t greatly marked but at least I knew I had hit the Pogonip Creek Trail!

I continued to walk straight down, and there were a few paths that I could have taken but continued to walk straight. The Pogonip Creek Trail is a loop; therefore, I didn’t want to take a right and go elsewhere. At this time, I was a bit tired and hungry. I wanted to go home.

As soon as I saw the service road to my left, I walked over to it and knew it was the trail back to my bike, aka I was back on the Brayshaw Trail.

Soon, I was back to where I started. I didn’t record my hike until about one mile later, and it logged me at 3 miles. Therefore I’m assuming this is a moderate-easy 4-mile day hike. I hope you can make it out there and enjoy the trail safely. It’s a beautiful, fun, and easy day hike within the City of Santa Cruz Open Space. Also, please remember to pack your trash and leave no trash behind. Mother nature is not a janitor and nor is the public. You brought it in, you take it out. Leave it better than you found it!

Bike still in place.

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