Climbing Moon Rock (Santa Cruz, CA)

April 26, 2007

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I joined some friends for lunch at a local Capitola Village restaraunt called El Toro Bravo.  The food was delicious, as usual.  After lunch, we wanted to get outside and do something new.  We are new to the area, so it isn’t hard to find something we haven’t seen yet.  We decided to go check out Moon Rock, a local “secret”. 

To get there, we drove through UC Santa Cruz, winding through the wooded hills on small country roads reminiscent of my rural-town upbringing.  The green foilage lining the road danced in the breeze, the sun shining down through the branches and the fog with a soft muffled brilliance.  The drive to Moon Rock takes about twenty minutes from downtown Santa Cruz, but once you park your car you feel like you are hours from any significant town.

We parked the car and walked a couple miles down the road to a spot where we could crawl under a fence.  Above us, smooth rocky ridges and cliffs were stacked like giant legos.  The rocks are coarse and fragile, like hardened sand, and is spiderwebbed in places with small trenches dug by winter runoff. 

It only takes under half an hour to get to the top of the rocks, but the trail is steep and you gain elevation quickly.  I was out of breath by the time we made it up. 

I climbed up a small wall with footholds carved into the soft stone, rounded a bend, and approached the peak.  I was instantly taken by the view, which stretches in every direction as far as you can see.  The trees below roll over the hills like a green carpet and on a clear day you can see the ocean in the distance.  Beautiful cabins are nestled among the hills, some built up against the rocky crests jutting up from the forest floor.  As I looked at the steep, rocky crags jutting from the smooth rolling hills and valleys, I wondered what magnificent Earth processes created them. 

The high perch caught me off guard for a moment and my heart began to race.  I am a little frightened by heights, but I do not let it hold me down.  I have even gone skydiving twice.  Still, I have not completely eradicated the fear.  I sat down for a moment and scanned the gorgeous view as the wind surrounded me, pushing against me with a firm hand as if to remind me of my insignificance.  The rocks are covered in carvings etched by the hundreds or thousands of visitors who came before me to capture the same feeling I felt as I sat there.  Drawings and sculptures pop up like islands among the thousands of signatures and scrawls. 

After sitting for a moment, I reminded myself my own feet knew how to hold me up, and I stood with my friends to walk around and peer over the edge, grateful for the coarse stone which provided great tracking for my sneakers.  The wind continued threatening to peel me away, but my apprehension faded and I found myself carefully exploring.  In one spot, someone has carved all the way through a two-foot rock wall to provide a view of the hills beyond. 

We took pictures of each other standing atop the cliffs and sat on the first perch for a while longer, as it had the best views, carving our own names into the stone.  As the rest of my group filed down towards the trail to go home, I stood for a moment alone, looking out over the world before me and felt the familiar wanderlust tugging at my spirit.  When I first came up on the peak, I had thought to myself, “Maybe I better scratch mountain climbing off of my list.”  Now, as I stood there and let the wind blow my fears and insecurites from my body, my spirit swelled and soared among the mountaintops below and beyond.  “Look what I would miss if I gave in to my fears and doubts,” I thought to myself, and imagined the view from mountaintops ten or twenty times this height and the sense of accomplishment I would feel if I conquered their peaks.  I could sit inside my whole life and avoid the danger of falling or discomfort of facing my fears but then what would be the point of living at all?  Indeed, this thought is the essence of travel.

I joined the others and made my way back down to Earth, reluctant to leave.  We capped the night off with some barbecued burgers, a few beers, and a game of poker.  It was a day worth living.

If you make it to Santa Cruz, you might find this spot hard to find.  I don’t think it is in any guide books.  But it is an easy climb and it isn’t too far from town.  Your best bet is to get out on the town and meet some locals.  Most of them surely know how to get there.  Local spots like this one make every town unique, but unfortunately most tourists never bother to open the right doors when they travel.  Make your trip unique by experiencing the unique. 



  1. You are a great story-teller! Moon Rock is gorgeous… that’s awesome you found it.

    Take Care,

  2. i was just there 2 days ago. you capture alot of what was going through my head as i ran around there. I was also glad the rock was coarse and gave good grip. If you keep going back, away from the ocean, you run into almost endless manzenita. very cool place, i want to go back.

  3. A large fire started 11 June, 2008 near “Moon Rock” road at 3 pm. High winds spread it to over 300 acres by nightfall. I’m not sure what it will look like after the fire.

  4. Moon Rock. I know you. I love you. I lived in santa Cruz/Boony Doon area for a number of years. I remember one night climbing to the top with my wife at that time, Tammy Azmy. Very cool chick. It was 1999 – probably around July ;you see she’d just been let out of jail, we lost our directions and very soon we were climbiing a sheer rock face. I had a six pack with me. It was hard work to protect it. Tammy thankfully could take care of herself. We reached the top where a couple of rock climbers were camping out – Full Moon. They jumped out of their skins. It must have been 2am. There is’nt much up there to light afire….. But plenty of UFO….Fucking hell, I kid you not, the air is as clear as a whistle. There’s a road on which you can hear a car 2 miles away. Nothing coming……….. but Oh! yeah you can hear something wizzing about up here …. and it ain’t the wind. Tammy, she told me “shut the fuckup!. Get that fire wood.” HEY I MISS YOU TAMMY. Love to ELI, Chance and all you cool Northern Californian Dudes. Peace

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