5 Things to Do in Felton, California—Santa Cruz’s Sister Town

This woodsy town is all the sights without the crowds.

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Santa Cruz’s Sister Town

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkk

Photo by Ray Krebs/Flickr

Santa Cruz is a fine Northern California day trip destination, but spending a summer afternoon in the popular surf city often requires sitting in traffic. Only seven miles away, the woodsy community of Felton has plenty of sights—and fewer crowds. Here’s how to spend a dreamy day in the historic logging town.

Famous in Felton

Local beverage hero Larry McNeill created his signature chai blend back in the 1980s. Today the drink is so popular (and tasty) that its local purveyor, the White Raven Cafe, has a huge sign advertising itself as “The Home of Larry’s Famous Chai.” Nothing lifts the fog off a Felton morning like this spicy cup of milky heaven.

Hiking in the Redwoods

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has 20 miles of hiking trails that snake beneath the canopy of California’s famously tall trees (the biggest giant on display here is 277 feet tall and 16 feet wide). You can fish, picnic, camp, and even swim in the San Lorenzo River (when the drought isn’t an issue), and the old train trestle makes for memorable photographs against the forested backdrop. But with accessible trails that range from less than a mile to over three miles long, this park is best when you explore the less trafficked routes. (Pro tip: Buy sandwiches and snacks from New Leaf before you go, so you’ll have fuel for an all-day adventure.)

Railroad Ties

Or explore the area around Henry Cowell by train: Roaring Camp Railroads runs two lines, the Redwood Forest Steam Train and the Santa Cruz Beach Train. If you want to stay in the woods, stick with the steam version. A $27 ticket takes you on a 75-minute ride back in time and up Bear Mountain to Cathedral Grove. You’ll be sitting in an open-top car, so bring layers on anything but the warmest days. Buy your tickets in advance if you want to avoid running up against a sold-out ride. Fun fact: Father John Misty played a show at the Roaring Camp Railroads’ Bret Harte Hall back in 2015, under the FolkYeah umbrella. FolkYeah also promotes great shows at Felton’s Don Quixote’s International Music Hall.

Pretzel Hour

Pretzel from The Cremer House

Pretzel from The Cremer House

Mercury Jane/Flickr

The Cremer House [now closed] is Felton’s most gourmet option, though it’s nearly as casual as the rest of the town. No matter how you spend your day, this is the spot to hit for dinner or a happy hour snack. Housed in downtown Felton’s oldest building, the restaurant and alehouse has an impressive selection of 25 different craft beers on tap, along with cider and wine. While you wait for a table on the outdoor deck, order something frothy from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing—and a pretzel. That second part is a must. The Cremer House’s pretzels are monster braids of warm, salty dough and come with an alehouse mustard and porter cheese spread that’s out-of-control good. The hearty California cuisine dinners are also insanely tasty and a great value for the price.

Cozy Cabin

You know those dive bars where 15 minutes after you sit down, you’ve already met a local who’s telling you the history of the bar, the town, and his or her family? Monty’s Log Cabin is that kind of place. Not only is the space warm and charming, with an outdoor fire pit and Christmas lights everywhere, but the regulars who populate the spot are as awesome as the atmosphere. If you’re looking for cheap drinks and good company, don’t miss Monty’s.

Jennifer is a copywriter, editor, journalist, and content strategist based in Portland, Oregon.
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