If Natural Bridges State Beach looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s one of the most photographed natural places in all of California. And once you’ve taken in the scenery, it’s not hard to understand why. The natural mudstone arches that earned the beach its name make an incredible backdrop for your day in the sand.
Unfortunately, the erosion that created these natural wonders is slowly reclaiming them as the years go by. Since the early 20th century, the three arches that constituted the famous California landmark have been wearing away and crumbling. Today, only one is left.
The beach remains an incredible spot for swimming, surfing, kite flying, hiking, and more. If you go, be sure to bring your camera to capture an image of one of California’s most striking natural wonders before it returns to the sea.
2531 W Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz
Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, windsurfing, kite flying, photography, hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, whale watching, and tidepooling.
Tidepool tours are offered at the beach.
In the winter, a large population of monarch butterflies migrates south to find seasonal refuge at Natural Bridges State Park. There are guided tours of the nearby Monarch Butterfly Nature Preserve if you’re there in-season.
You can find the Moore Creek Estuary by walking along the hiking trails.
No Dogs are allowed on the beach.
Restrooms, lifeguards, picnic tables, barbecues, estuary, butterfly preserve, hiking trails.
There is an entrance fee to the park.
There is paid parking on premises, as well as free parking at the lot on Cliff Drive.
Lighthouse Field State Beach is nearby. There you can jog, hike, bike, skateboard, and surf.
At Lighthouse Field State Beach, you’ll find the Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse, which contains the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Inside the museum, you’ll learn about the more than 100-year history of surfing through images, objects, and surfboards.
Steamer Lane, an advanced surfing spot that draws many spectators, is right near the Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse. Head over there to watch high-level surfing from a cliffside vantage point.
The first arch to fall at Natural Bridges State Park came down in the early part of the 20th century, and the second came down in a 1980 storm. Visitors used to be able to walk across the mudstone bridges, but are now asked to stay off of them for their own safety.