Santa Cruz Hikes: Land of Medicine Buddha

land of medicine buddha hike in santa cruz

We ask all hikers to be courteous and to respect Land of Medicine Buddha and their guests attending retreats. Please note that day use hours are as follows:

  • Weekdays: Open 8:00 AM to dusk
  • Saturdays: Closed for public use
  • Sundays: Open from noon until dusk

Please observe these hours when planning your hike, and while on the property remember that this is a meditation and retreat facility, not a recreation area. Keep conversations and voices subdued while on the property out of respect for the Land of Medicine Buddha center and its community. Group hikes should call the office in advance at (831) 462-8383 to find out if retreats are in session.

Land of Medicine Buddha: Long Loop
Length: 6 miles; 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

If you love the muffled quiet of a redwood forest broken only by the murmur of a creek and the faint echo of a Buddhist gong, it’s time to get on your hiking boots and explore the Land of Medicine Buddha.

Banana Slugs and Buddhas

The Land of Medicine Buddha (LMB) has an air of serenity that begins in the parking lot and only gets stronger as you amble deeper into the surrounding woods. The presence of the buddhist retreat, made visible through colorful prayer flags and gentle reminders to keep voices low, gives a feeling of safety and community to this trail.

From the bridge at the end of Prescott Road, head up the hill to the left and look for the wide dirt trail that leads you into the forest. A small creek runs through a ravine down below and a thick canopy of redwoods and deciduous trees shades almost the entire length of trail. The forest floor is thick with ferns, and fallen logs sprout cities of mushrooms nestled on carpets of moss. Buddhist paintings and statues lie hidden inside the giant stumps of redwoods hollowed out by lightning. Watch your step for the occasional banana slug and enjoy this flat path while it lasts.

land of medicine buddha trees

Follow the Prayer Flags

After the first two or three miles, you’ll cross the creek (it’s hard to see the trail on the other side but if you keep going straight the trail disappears into a mess of fallen branches). The going now gets steeper as you begin zig-zagging up the hillside. The views of the forest floor below help keep your mind off the 1200 foot climb you’ll make in the next half mile. As you near the top, the forest begins to change from redwood and douglas fir to groves of oak trees.

Land of Medicine Buddha prayer flagsFrom here on you’ll begin to see colorful prayer flags hung between the trees, some with small gold statues of buddha tucked in the lower branches.

Stay right when the trail first forks (if you continue to see prayer flags, you’re on the right path) and enjoy the slow descent. If you veer left, the trail leads deeper into Nisene Marks State Park which LMB borders.

You’ll pass several sets of prayer flags on your right that mark a shortcut back to the retreat. Only take this if you’re in a rush, otherwise you’ll miss the redwood grove of makeshift shrines. The uprooted base of one fallen giant is filled with photos, old jewelry, poems and other tangible memories of lost loved ones.

The last leg of your journey is the Eight Verses Loop. Finally you’ll share the forest with a few other folks who’ve come to contemplate the Buddhist verse printed on a series of signs accompanied by wide, welcoming benches. Beyond the verses lies a large golden Buddha, a prayer wheel and gong. Give the prayer wheel a gentle spin and and the gong a soft strike before heading down the road back to the start.

Check out the Land of Medicine Buddha website to learn more about what this tucked-away retreat has to offer.

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Directions & Parking

From Santa Cruz head south on Highway 1 and take the Porter Street / Bay Avenue exit and turn left under the freeway. Turn right onto Main Street. Stay on Main Street until it merges into Glenhaven Road. Continue on Glenhaven for ½ mile. Turn right onto Prescott Road (turn on your headlights as the sign advises). Follow this narrow, woodsy street until you come to a wooden bridge. Park in the pullout before the bridge or cross it and follow the road to the left to the LMB parking lot. Please note that parking on Prescott Road is very limited.

HoursSunrise - Sunset
ParkingFree
RestroomsYes
DogsYes, on leash
Water FeaturesYes
ViewsNo
Crowded on WeekendsNo
Gongs and prayer wheelsYes
Buddhist templeYes

Photo Credit: Eric Ressler

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About Molly Lautamo

Molly Lautamo is a freelance writer and content strategist. She came to Santa Cruz almost ten years ago to attend UCSC and never left. To check out more of Molly's writing, visit mollylautamo.com

Comments

  1. Molly,

    Stunning sunrise picture at LoMB! My friend and I hike 6 mile every week and like to stop and bask in this light whenever it happens to come through the trees. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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