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Soquel Demonstration Forest

We have been to the Soquel Demo Forest (SDF) many times. It is one of our favorite rides and is popular with most of the local riders.

SDF is a demonstration forest covering 2681 acres and operated by the California Department of Forestry. It is located in the Santa Cruz mountains off of Summit Road. The SDF is adjacent to the the 10,000 acre Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The Department of Forestry has done a great job here in terms of letting bikers access the trails while keeping things safe and deserve your thanks and appreciation! Nice Job!

Park: Soquel Demo Forest
Date: Multiple
Distance: 12 - 32 miles
Ride Time: 1:40 - 4:20
Total Ascent: 2,200 - 4,600 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 9

After parking on Highland Way near the steel bridge or crossing the bridge and parking the large lot, ride up Highland Way and turned right on Buzzard Lagoon Road (1.9 miles). This is a marked dirt road leading off into the forest. After going through a gate, you will turn right onto Santa Rosalia Road (another fire road) at the 2.8 mile mark and continue to the top at the junction with the Aptos Creek fire road (this leads down into the Forest of Nisene Marks, but that is another ride report) at the 4.7 mile mark. Cusacks Trail is an unsigned singletrack trail a ways past the Santa Rosalia Road junction that is a more enjoyable to climb up part of Santa Rosalia Road. There are also a couple of unnamed singletracks on the right side of the road than make small loops back to the main road. Regardless of the exact route you take, you should end up at a wide spot that looks like a turn-around with a trail junction off to the right. You are now ready for the heart of the ride!

This trail junction is the top of Ridge trail. This is a very fun trail that goes along the ridge line. There are 5 ways down that split off of Ridge:

  1. Corral is the first trail you will come across. The top of Corral used to be difficult in wet weather, but the trail has been re-routed in a very agreeable way. This is a fun ride down, but the trail can also be ridden up to the top. If the ride to the top sucked out all of your energy, this is a pretty easy way down. It joins Sulphur a ways down.
  2. Sulphur is a fire road that joins Ridge at a large open space (this is actually a helicopter pad for emergency extractions). Sulphur is usually used as a path to the top as the other trails are a lot more fun going down the hill. The top of Sulphur is a good climb, so shift down and have at it.
  3. Braille earned its name because you have to "feel" your way down. This trail is much tighter, with lots of opportunities to add challenges. The overly-bold can get in over their head pretty quickly on Braille. For those riding at their limits, Braille is a lot of fun! This trail (the one I had previously "ridden") still had plenty
  4. Tractor is a great downhill ride, swooping in and out on a beautiful singletrack through the redwood forest. This is almost completely downhill and is a lot of fun!
  5. Flow is a new trail that is still being built out. Unlike the other trails, this singletrack emphasizes banked turns and small rollovers rather than technical downhill. This crosses Tractor several times an will probably replace it in the long run. See the write-up of first impressions.
  6. Sawpit is the last trail off of Ridge. This is yet another singletrack through the forest with its own challenges. This is another "must ride" trail.

Each of these trails ends on Hihn's Mill fire road. The farther out you go on Ridge the more climbing you will have to do on Hihn's Mill. If you still have energy, go up one of the trails (Sulphur?) back to Ridge and try another trail down. Do this until you are too tired to do more. Then follow Hihn's Mill all the way back to the parking area.

Be careful on your first rides at SDF as you can get in over your head quickly. On my first ride there, I realized I was in over my head pretty early on the way down Braille. I crashed once or twice and thought I was being careful when I crashed again. I went down hard and waited for my bike to land on me (like I said, it was a hard crash). It didn't happen. In fact, it didn't land at all. It was stuck in a tree. I made it down the rest of the way without additional incidents (but with bark and moss still stuck in my helmet). I decided that I needed to develop some more skills before coming back.

SDF is a great place to ride. You will want to go there often.

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