The trail is an extension of Aptos Creek Road. Aptos Creek Fire Road begins at a parking area in Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, where further vehicle travel on Aptos Creek Road ends at a gate. The trailhead is well marked.
Trail Start to Sand Point Overlook (mile 0 - 5.8)
Aptos Creek Fire Road begins in the thick redwood forest along Aptos Creek. It follows Aptos Creek upstream in the redwood forest, passing several old logging historical sites. There are informational plaques along the way that describe the history. Trail junctions with trails that access waterfalls, more historical sites, and the epi-center of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (magnitude 6.9) are also passed. At mile 1.6, the trail leaves Aptos Creek behind as it climbs a redwood-forested ridge. The trail continues winding its way along the redwood-forested hillside to Sand Point Overlook at mile 5.8. Views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance emerge as the trail approaches this overlook.
Sand Point Overlook to Soquel Demonstration Forest Ridge Trail (mile 5.8 - 9.1)
After passing Sand Point Overlook, Aptos Creek Fire Road continues to wind its way through the redwood forest, climbing gradually as it goes. This section runs along a hillside just below the ridge top. Through the trees, there are views of the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean in places where the trees thin. As the trail climbs, redwoods become scarcer, and oaks, manzanita, and firs take over. At mile 9.1, the trail reaches its high point at a trail junction with Ridge Trail
. Go straight here on the wide fire road to stay on Aptos Creek Fire Road.
Soquel Demonstration Forest Ridge Trail to Buzzard Lagoon Road (mile 9.1 - 11.4)
After passing the Ridge Trail
, Aptos Creek Fire Road levels off for a short ways. Here at the trail's high point, there are magnificent views out to the Pacific Ocean. Santa Rosalia Mountain is then passed. There is a short unmarked side path to the wooded summit of Santa Rosalia Mountain (Santa Rosalia Mountain Summit Path
) at mile 9.65, that then rejoins the trail at mile 9.90. The summit is barely higher than the main trail, and views from it are limited due to the trees. After passing Santa Rosalia Mountain, the trail begins to descend gradually. As the trail descends, it re-enters redwood forest. After 11.4 miles, the trail ends at Buzzard Lagoon Road, a dirt road that is open to motorized vehicle traffic.
Redwoods, firs, oaks, manzanita, and other vegetation and brush grow here.