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Monterey Bay Beach Hike & Pajaro River Swim - Aptos to Moss Landing, 15 miles

  • Sep 7, 2013 · 10:00 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

The tides are right on Saturday, Sept 7 for an all-day beach hike on Monterey Bay from Seacliff State Beach in Aptos to Moss Landing, including a short swim across the Pajaro river. This outing includes dinner at a restaurant in Moss Landing and rides on public transportation back to Aptos.


1. Meet at 10:00 am in Aptos at the corner of State Park Drive and Santa Cruz Ave just outside the entrance to Seacliff State Beach.

Free parking is available just outside the park on Santa Cruz Ave or around the corner and to the right from Santa Cruz Ave on Broadway until 10pm. Note: DO NOT PARK in the Seacliff State Beach parking lots, as the park closes at sunset, and you will get ticketed (we will be returning to our cars after sunset).

2. Leave promptly at 10:15. Hike down the hill onto Seacliff State Beach.

3. We'll take our time hiking the beaches from Seacliff State Beach to Moss Landing and remote stretches between. Each state beach has a slightly different flavor - Seacliff, La Selva, Manresa, Sunset, Palm, Zmudowski, and Moss Landing. It's a wonderful way to spend a day and find out what's happening on the beaches of Monterey Bay. We'll stop for lunch and breaks along the way.

During the day, as we approach Moss Landing, if it's not too foggy, we'll be able to see the stacks looming larger & larger. It can be like Dorothy & friends off to see the Wizard of Oz. Then, as we arrive in Oz, we'll see how ugly the wizard is :).

Except for a couple of small streams, the only break in the beaches will be the Pajaro River in Watsonville, which we'll swim across, taking us from Santa Cruz to Monterey county. The Pajaro River crossing will be far into the hike in Watsonville - and although the river is small, some adventure is always there, and there is no way around the water. Only do this hike if you can swim.We'll explore the river mouth to find a suitable crossing. The tide will be a few feet then, so maybe we'll be lucky enough to wade across, but the river is unpredictable due to changing conditions, so we should expect to have to swim to cross it. It's good to have something to swim in and a dry sack or garbage bag for clothes and shoes for the river crossing. Leave electronics at home - expect your stuff to get wet.

It will be windy and cool after crossing the Pajaro River. Warm layers are needed to prevent hypothermia late in the day there after swimming :). From the river crossing it's probably a couple more miles to Moss Landing.

4. From Moss Landing State Beach, leave the beach and hike to Hwy 1. Hike about a half mile along Hwy 1, which is not pedestrian friendly, crossing the bridge into Moss Landing. We'll do dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate having hoofed it all the way from Aptos to Moss Landing - nearly half of Monterey Bay! Suggested restaurants: Sea Harvest or the Whole Enchilada.

5. By no later than ~7-7:15 pm, depending where we stop for dinner, hike to the MST bus stop near Hwy 1 and Dolan Rd. in Moss Landing. Arrive at the stop by 7:35pm to catch the 7:40 Bus 28 to the Watsonville Transit Center, arriving at 7:56.

6. From the Watsonville Transit Center, catch the 8:00 pm Santa Cruz Metro Bus 71 to Aptos. It'll be about a half mile walk back to our cars from the stop. Fares will be $3.50 for the first bus, then $2 for the second; no change is provided on the buses.


You must be a very strong hiker and a swimmer to do this hike. The river is typically not large or strong but it could be deep or have some current. This hike is suitable for rugged, adventurous types. Others should not attempt it as it could easily cause injury to self and others, and once on the beaches and especially at the Pajaro River, there is not a way to exit the hike. There is no bridge or other way to get around the Pajaro.

Hiking distance is 15 miles. This hike is very strenuous due to the sand and changing conditions.

The pace will be slow through the sand and close to the water to prevent injury of feet and legs, as it uses different muscles than a typical hike. Walking fast in sand can be injurious, so we'll take our time and stop whenever we want.


2-3 liters of water, lunch, snacks, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, a change of clothing, and/or 2-3 warm layers, and a large plastic bag or dry sack. It will be cold and windy late in the day but may be hot earlier, depending on the weather. Bring only things that can get wet. Bring six $1 bills for bus fares and $$ for dinner in Moss Landing, and a watch to help us catch the bus.

Links to SC and MST public transportation return bus schedules:

Moss Landing to Watsonville:

Watsonville to Aptos:

Rain or a huge swell will cancel. Fog or sprinkles won't.

Please read the  FAQ. This is an 'at risk' activity. By joining us on this hike you agree to hold the organizers, assistant organizers, and other members harmless. You are responsible for your own safety on the hike.

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  • Cathy

    So true Don. Excellent day. Thanks Barb and everyone!

    September 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wow, after reading Don's glowing description, I am really disappointed that I missed this adventure. Next time, I'm definitely in.

    September 8, 2013

  • don

    Thanks for hosting a wonderful full day adventure, Barb! I loved sharing the excellent walk, river crossing (thanks Perry for being our river guide!), the "homing" flip flop - (sorry your sunglasses swam away, Sharol) :-( , awesome dinner (thanks Kristin for setting us up!), the superb timing of the bus transfers, the fun after-party bus party and the final after urban hike to the cars with a fun group! So. Much. Fun. !!!

    1 · September 8, 2013

  • Jeff

    Fabulous, Barb! Thank you so much!

    September 8, 2013

  • Cathy

    what a great day!!!!!

    September 7, 2013

  • Nicholas M.

    I just realized i am signed up on this on both groups--hope that does not matter

    September 6, 2013

  • Larry

    I'll get dropped off in the morning at Seacliff SB. On the return trip I'll continue on the Santa Cruz bus to the Downtown Transit Center. From there I'll walk home. Thanks Barb!!!

    September 6, 2013

  • Cathy


    September 6, 2013

  • Cathy

    I had to back time,

    September 6, 2013

  • Perry B.

    Should be fun.

    September 1, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This sounds like SO MUCH FUN, I am so disappointed that I can't make it. I've been having back troubles, which have curtailed my hiking temporarily. Hope to get back in the saddle soon. Enjoy the hike!

    August 29, 2013

  • ninamo

    Beautiful write-up for an amazing adventure. Sorry I can't make the entire walk. Might be able to join you from Seacliff to Manresa if that's ok.

    August 29, 2013

  • Mary

    Wish I could join you...not in town then.

    August 28, 2013

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