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The Santa Cruz Mountains, part of the Pacific Coast Ranges, are a mountain range in central Californiamarker, United Statesmarker. They form a ridge along the San Francisco Peninsula, south of San Franciscomarker, separating the Pacific Oceanmarker from San Francisco Baymarker and the Santa Clara Valley, and continuing south, bordering Monterey Baymarker and ending at the Salinas Valley. The range passes through San Franciscomarker, San Mateomarker, Santa Claramarker, Santa Cruzmarker, San Benitomarker and Montereymarker counties, with San Franciscomarker at the northern end and Salinasmarker as the southern end.

The highest point in the range is Loma Prieta Peakmarker 1,154 m (3,786 ft), near which is the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakemarker. Other major peaks include Mount Umunhummarker 1,063 m (3,486 ft), Mount Bielawskimarker 985 m (3,231 ft), El Sombroso 914 m (2,999 ft), Eagle Rock 758 m (2,488 ft), Black Mountainmarker 853 m (2,800 ft), and Sierra Morena 737 m (2,417 ft). The San Andreas Faultmarker runs along or near the ridge line throughout the range. The east side of the mountains drops abruptly towards this fault line especially near Woodsidemarker and Saratogamarker.

For much of the length of the range on the San Francisco Peninsula, State Route 35 runs along its ridge, and is known as "Skyline Boulevard". The major routes across the mountains are (from north to south) SR 92 from Half Moon Baymarker to San Mateomarker, SR 84 from San Gregoriomarker to Redwood Citymarker, SR 9 from Santa Cruzmarker to Saratogamarker, SR 17 from Santa Cruzmarker to Los Gatosmarker, SR 152 from Watsonvillemarker to Gilroymarker, SR 129 from Watsonville to San Juan Bautistamarker, and US Highway 101 from Salinas to Gilroy.

The Santa Cruz Mountains have been a legally defined American Viticultural Area since 1981. The Santa Cruz Mountain AVA has emerged as premier producer of top wines, recognized in the historic Judgement of Paris on May 26, 1976.There are over 30 wineries located in this area.


The Santa Cruz Mountains are largely the result of compressive uplift caused by a leftward bend of the San Andreas Faultmarker. Some significant rock strata present are Lompico Sandstone and Vaqueros Sandstone. geologic units within the Santa Cruz Mountains include the Lompico Formation and the deeper Santa Margarita Formation.


Image:Bobcat at AQ.jpg|Bobcat in wintertime, at Almaden-Quicksilver Park.Image:Deer in Ben Lomond.jpg|A deer buck in Ben Lomond, CA taken October 29th 2009.

The Santa Cruz Mountains are a region of large biological diversity, encompassing cool, moist coastal ecosystems as well as warm, dry chaparral. In valleys and moist ocean-facing slopes some of the southernmost coast redwoods grow, along with Douglas fir, which is at the southern extent of its range. Coast live oak, Pacific madrone, wax myrtle, and California bay laurel also occur in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There do exist several small and isolated stands of old growth forest, most notably at Henry Cowell Redwoods and Portola Redwoods State Parks and one sizeable old-growth redwood forest at Big Basin. At higher elevations and on sunny south slopes a more drought-resistant chaparral vegetation dominates: manzanita, California scrub oak, chamise, and chaparral pea. Spring wildflowers are also widespread throughout the range.

The area welcomes a tremendous number of species of birds. (see: bird list). Black-tailed deer, a subspecies of Mule deer are common, as are gray squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and human-introduced opposums also inhabit the region but are rarely seen. Rattlesnakes are also habitants, mostly in the high, dry chaparral.


The Santa Cruz Mountains have a Mediterranean type climate typical of most of California, with the majority of the annual precipitation falling between November and April. According to the National Weather Service, this totals more than 127 cm (50 inches) annually. Heavy summer fogs frequently cover the western ocean-facing slopes and valleys, resulting in drizzle and "fog drip" caused by condensation on the redwoods, pines, and other trees, which sustains the moisture-loving redwood forests. Due to a rain shadow effect, precipitation on the eastern side of the range is significantly less, about 28 cm (15 inches) a year. Snow falls a few times a year on the highest ridges, and more rarely the higher valleys receive light dustings.

The National Weather Service's cooperative weather stations in the mountains have included Black Mountainmarker 2WSW — average annual rainfall , maximum annual rainfall , average annual snowfall , maximum annual snowfall ; Los Gatosmarker 5SW — average annual rainfall , maximum annual rainfall , average snowfall 2.7 inches, maximum annual snowfall ; and Wrightsmarker - average annual rainfall , maximum annual rainfall , average annual snowfall , maximum annual snowfall . No temperature records were kept at these stations.

Normal winter temperatures range from the upper thirties °F (~3-4 °C) to the middle fifties °F (~13-14 °C), with valley frosts common but rarely widespread or deep. Summer temperatures regularly reach highs in the eighties °F (~28-29 °C) with nighttime usually in the upper forties to lower fifties °F (~9-12 °C). Thermal inversions can occur any time of the year where cool air sinks and gets trapped in the valleys.


The Santa Cruz Mountains are home to an unusual abundance of parks and protected open spaces, notable among them is California's oldest state park: Big Basin Redwoods State Parkmarker. Other state parks include Castle Rock State Parkmarker, Portola Redwoods State Parkmarker, Butano State Parkmarker, The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parkmarker, McNee Ranch State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkmarker with its famous Redwood Grove walking trail. Additional land is protected by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), the Sempervirens Fund and local county parks districts. Hiking, horse-riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, and backpacking are popular activities. There are two long-distance trails in the range: the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which winds 58 km (38 miles) from Castle Rock State Park through Big Basin to the Pacific Ocean, and the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which, while still disjointed, here roughly parallels Skyline Boulevard along the spine of the range. There also exist several backcountry campsites in many of the state parks that enable long distance multi-day outings. Castle Rock State Park has open rock faces suitable for rock climbing and bouldering.

Cultural History

The previous historic Old Almaden Winery was located on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Film director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma had their primary residence near Scotts Valley, the Cornwall Ranch, purchased in September 1940.

In the 1960s, the Santa Cruz Mountains developed a strong counterculture atmosphere.

Jerry Garcia's family owned a house in the small town of Lompico where, at the age of four, Garcia had his right middle finger chopped off by his brother. Lompico also served as a residence for Janis Joplin and her group, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Joplin often spoke of the Santa Cruz Mountain's redwood forestmarker as being divine inspiration for her music.

Author and psychedelic advocate Ken Kesey owned a house in La Hondamarker, which served as a home base for his Merry Pranksters. He frequently entertained friends there with LSD parties he called "Acid Tests". These parties were noted in some of Allen Ginsberg's poems and are also described in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, as well as Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson.

In 1965, science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein constructed a compound in Bonny Doonmarker, and lived there until shortly before his death in 1988.


  1. C. Michael Hogan (2008) Douglas-fir: "Pseudotsuga menzesii",, ed. N. Stromberg [1]
  2. Central California
  3. Hitchcock had Link to Santa Cruz Co
  4. SonsofEternity.html
  5., including quoted passage from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.

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