Roaring Camp, in Felton, was first established in the 1830s. Shortly thereafter, the first sawmill west of the Mississippi was established there to log the redwoods. In the late 1860s the area became the first virgin strand of redwoods to be protected from logging. It was also the site of the area’s first railroad which is still in operation today.
We’ve been to Roaring Camp many times to visit Thomas The Train or to ride the Mountain Train up into the redwoods and be a part of a great train robbery. But I always had my eye on the Beach Train that runs from Felton to Santa Cruz – that seemed like a train worth riding! Now that my kids have outgrown Thomas I thought it would be fun to take the train to Santa Cruz for the day.
During the summer, the Beach Train runs daily. We were on the first departure at 10:15AM and planned to return on the last train leaving Santa Cruz at 4:15PM. I was sure that was going to be more time than we needed in Santa Cruz, but as it turns out, we needed more time!
The first half of the ride goes through the redwood forest in Henry Cowell State Park so it’s quite shady. The train hugs the side of a mountain with a steep drop off to the San Lorenzo River below. For the best views, be sure to sit on the left side of the train. Not realizing this, we chose to sit on the right side so we could have the best views of the beach when we arrived. However, the engineers switch the train around before reaching the beach (to make it easier for the train to depart later) – so we ended up being on the wrong side of the train as we pulled up to the boardwalk!
The last portion of the train ride went right down the middle of the street through the town of Santa Cruz. Everyone we passed gave a big wave as we came by.
The train let us off directly in front of the boardwalk. While going to the boardwalk was definitely part of our plan, naturally the kids wanted to go in immediately and get started on the rides.
After we bought our tickets, we headed straight for the Giant Dipper, a historic wooden roller coaster that opened in 1924!
The Boardwalk is a great place for little ones too! Kate & Ben had a great time riding the merry-go-round and some rides in the kiddie section with their 18-month-old cousin.
The bigger rides were fun too!
We had brought our swimsuits & towels and had plans to hit the beach and maybe take a walk along the coast since there’s so much to do in Santa Cruz beyond the Boardwalk. But 4:15 snuck up on us and we ended up having to pull Kate out of line for the Beach Swings to get back to the train. As soon as we got back to the train, they announced it would depart closer to 4:30 to allow everyone enough time to get back. We should have known it wouldn’t depart exactly on time. As a result, we promised Kate another trip back to the Boardwalk so she can ride the Beach Swings again and we’ll be sure to venture beyond the Boardwalk to do some of the things we didn’t get to this time.
On the way home, we made sure to sit on the side of the train with the better view of the trees and river!
The tracks cross the highway at one point.
On the way back, we had a good view of the river below. It was a hot day and there were lots of places where people were lying out on the rocks and swimming in the river & swimming holes. It looked pretty fantastic and when we got home we looked it up! It’s called the Garden of Eden swimming hole and can be accessed in Henry Cowell State Park off Highway 9. It’s only about a 15 minute hike to reach it – sounds pretty easy!
Back at Roaring Camp at the end of the day.