Soquel Demonstration State Forest (“Demo”) is a gem within the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Its name is what it is: a demonstration of how active logging operations can be paired with recreation. In the case of Demo, it’s mountain biking mecca for the South Bay and Santa Cruz regions. Though a bit of a drive to get to, it’s always worth it in my opinion.
Where else can you find miles of uninterrupted, well-designed and maintained flow trail within the Santa Cruz Mountains? We are spoiled with a plethora of awesome trails in Santa Cruz, but when all six stages of Demo’s Flow Trail were completed a few years ago, it opened up a new standard for how long and “flowy” a downhill could be. It is like a roller coaster; so fun! It is beautifully crafted and diligently kept up by the stewardship of many mountain bikers, like MBOSC, who lead Dig Days for trailwork. This is the main attraction of Demo, although it’s not the only one.
Braille Trail is another awesome trail within Demo; it’s shorter than Flow, but boasts more log jumps and features than Flow, and is more of a black-diamond run.
Sawpit Trail is the longest trail, mostly cross-country as it traverses Ridge Trail until its starting point. It was recently rerouted, and is a nice, fun trail with some good steeper sections. It has the longest climb out up Hihn’s Mill Road, at a little under four miles.
Corral Trail is a relatively short trail between Ridge and Sulphur Springs; a nice addition if you’re looking to do a longer ride, but I usually skip it.
Demo sets the bar for how much climbing you have to inure to go downhill. A 3:1 ratio of climbing to downhill feels about right, although the math doesn’t make sense, of course. Usually, I climb up via Buzzard Lagoon to Aptos Creek Fire Road, taking a rest at the Santa Rosalia overlook, which has a nice peek of the Monterey Bay. You can also climb in through Hihn’s Mill Road to Sulphur Springs (a.k.a. “Suffer Springs”), if you want a slightly shorter but steeper-pitched climb that skips the first part of Ridge Trail. It earns its nickname, though, as it feels harder than climbing up Buzzard Lagoon.
These rides will keep your endurance and strength up, no doubt. It’s a long ride in, and out, but totally worth it. I love the peace, quiet, and solitude of a long ride. It always sets me right.
Here are some videos of Demo:
Flow Trail from top to bottom: