Huge views of the bay and zero crowds await on the western edge of Santa Cruz at Moore Creek Preserve, a 246-acre greenbelt purchased by the City of Santa Cruz in 1998 and co-managed by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Once known as the Bombay Property, this little slice of heaven was at one time slated for a small townhouse development; a community outcry led to the $3.5 million purchase.
Moore Creek Preserve encompasses the riparian corridor formed by the West Branch of Moore Creek, which joins the longer East Branch (it originates on the UCSC campus) at the southeastern corner of the preserve before flowing beneath Highway 1 to form Antonelli Pond, near Natural Bridges. Mixed forest—think coast live oak, bay laurel and California hazelnut—thrive between the riparian zone and the wide-open grasslands of the higher terraces. High on the ridge, anchored in a ravine, Douglas firs and oak trees grow tall, crowning the view to the north. A half-mile–wide swath of rare coastal terrace prairie sweeps a mile southward toward the sea, ending at Highway 1.
Moore Creek is home to some endangered species, including the red-legged frog and Ohlone tiger beetle. Cattle graze the open pastures, a process that helps restore native grasslands. Moore Creek has some spectacular coast live oaks.