Field Trips

Visit a State Park or Beach



Virtual field trips and a limited number of in-person, outdoor-only field trips are being offered in Santa Cruz District State Parks during Fall 2021. Social distancing and masks are required for all in-person field trips, including outdoor visits.
For more information on virtual field trips, please contact individual parks or explore what is available virtually through the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS), a free distance-learning program that uses the power of interactive videoconferencing to help K-12 schools teach common core state standards in the context of California State Parks.

Año Nuevo State Park

School groups are welcome at Año Nuevo State Park year-round to learn about this incredible coastal habitat including the elephant seal rookery, the one-of-a-kind island, and Ohlone middens. Trek through the chaparral and over the dunes on a 3-mile, 2.5-hour walk to where the Elephant Seals come to molt and breed.

There are two types of school group naturalist-guided walks depending on the time of year.

  • Winter Elephant Seal Walk: Breeding season, mid-December to mid-March, is the busiest time of year. School group walks are available weekdays for grades 4-12. Visitors must be on a guided walk in order to see the Elephant Seals. Reservations open the first Saturday in October and are on sale throughout the season. To purchase a ticket, please call Reserve California at 800-444-4445. Online reservations are not available. The cost per school group ticket is $21 and allows entry for up to 20 students plus two required adult chaperones, for a total group size of 22. Chaperones are required. This guide is designed to prepare school groups visiting in the winter.
  • Spring Elephant Seal Walk: The molting season runs from April through the end of November. Naturalist-guided or self-guided walks out to the natural preserve where the Elephant Seals come to molt are available. Sign up online. Groups of up to 60 are welcome. This guide is designed to prepare school groups visiting in the spring.

Castle Rock State Park

Students have the ability to learn first hand about the natural wonders of Castle Rock State Park. Field trips delve into concepts such as geology, Native American peoples, wildfire ecology, and watersheds. These field trips focus heavily on involving the five senses to create a strong connection to nature, the concepts studied, and to provide excellent information retention.

The free field trip at Castle Rock State Park can accommodate up to 60 students and lasts 2 hours. Sign up online.


Castro Adobe State Historic Park

A visit to the Castro Adobe in Watsonville immerses students in our community’s story from the heyday of the vaquero to the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Hands-on, sensory experiences bring more than a century of history to life, while guided investigations of students’ own inquiries make learning personally relevant. Both in-person and virtual visits are being offerd at this time.

  • Enjoy a two hour in-person visit to the Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe State Historic Park. Please note that for in-person visits, only half-busses are allowed because of the narrow road access. In-person visits are only available on Fridays beginning Jan. 21, 2022, through June 3, 2022. To make a field trip reservation request, please use the Class Visit Request Form.
  • The 45-minute virtual lesson is aimed for 3rd and 4th graders who are studying California history. It explores the Ohlone indigenous people, the Mission Period, Presidios and the Rancho Era, with a primary focus is on the local history of Rancho San Andres and the Juan Jose Castro family that built the Castro Adobe over 170 years ago. Virtual visits are available Oct. 29, 2021 through June 3, 2022, on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. To schedule a virutal visit please use the Virtual Classroom Registration Form.

Half Moon Bay State Beach

School groups grade K-12 can take part in docent-led, hands-on educational programs along the San Mateo Coast. Field trips focused on shoreline habitats are held at Half Moon Bay State Beach, Pescadero Marsh, Montara State Beach and Bean Hollow State Beach. All field trips are 2 hours long. Stay to eat lunch at picnic tables overlooking the beach.

Several field trip topics are offered:

  • Birding at Francis Beach: Students will learn about the sandy beach habitat and its avian inhabitants during a guided walk. Binoculars and viewing scopes will be provided for each group. This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. This field trip is best for 3rd to 6th graders and can accommodate one class at a time, but more than one trip can be scheduled daily.
  • Geology of the Rocky Shore: Explore the rocky shore while learning about rocks, erosion and weathering. Students grades 2-5 will be taught how to use sieves, hand lenses and viewing boxes to explore samples they find. Visitors will experience the excitement of discovery like real geologists. This field trip meets at Bean Hollow State Beach, near Pescadero.
  • Marine Mammal Adaptations: Discover which marine mammals live along the local shoreline, including seals, sea lions, sea otters and whales. Students grades K to 6th will use bones, skulls, and pelts to learn how these species are adapted to live in ocean and beach habitats.This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach.
  • Montara Mountain/Gray Whale Cove Trail: This moderate walk at Montara State Beach is appropriate for 3rd to 6th graders. Self-guided tours also are available at this park.
  • Pescadero Marsh: This guided walk in the Pescadero Marsh, the largest coastal wetlands in the area, focuses on flora and fauna and is best for 4th graders and up. Students will learn about marsh ecology, including specific plants and animals seen along the trail; historical uses of the marsh; and why wetlands are an important resource and must be protected. This field trip meets at Pescadero State Beach. Self-guided tours also are available at this beach.
  • Sandy Beach Habitat: Students grades 1st to 6th can explore the ecology of the sandy beach habitat by collecting and sorting objects found on the beach. They will analyze sand samples from different beaches, and explore evidence of invertebrates using hand lenses, magnifiers and viewing boxes. This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach.

To schedule a field trip please fill out this form and select the field trip you are interested in.


Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offers State Standard hands-on educational programs for school groups grades K-12. With the diverse ecosystems within the park boundaries, including old growth redwood forest, riparian habitat, sandhills chaparral and grasslands, there are many opportunities for student engagement.

The Old-Growth Redwood Loop Tour is a 1-2 hour program that includes a short-to moderate-difficulty walk and hands-on activities. Self-guided tours of Henry Cowell are also available by prior arrangement.

All field trips at Henry Cowell offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups that have made reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance with approved waiver. For additional information, including teachers’ guides and to make reservations, call park staff at (831) 335-7077.


Natural Bridges State Beach

Come visit Natural Bridges virtually! From September through January, all virtual programs are focused on Monarchs, their life cycles, habitat needs, and migration. From February through June, all programs are focused on Tide Pool adaptations and zonation.


Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park

Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is accepting reservation requests for the fall — Sept. 20 through Dec. 20 — for virtual field trips. The field trips are conducted during two 1-hour Zoom programs, typically on a Monday and Thursday during the same week. Sign up here.


Seacliff State Beach

Two school tours are available at Seacliff State Beach.

All in-person field trips at Seacliff offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups who have made reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance with approved waiver. For additional information, including teachers’ guides, please call park staff at 831-685-6444.


The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parks

Nisene Marks offers in-person field trips on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Sign up here.


Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park offers both in-person and virtual enrichment activities for students. All field trips at Wilder Ranch offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups. Reservations must be made a minimum of two weeks in advance.

  • In-Person — Ranch History and Farm Animal Encounter: Students will engage in tasks required to operate a dairy ranch in the year 1900 during this hands-on learning experience which includes interacting with the farm animals that call Wilder Ranch their home today!
    • Available Fridays at 9:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. for students grade 1-3.
    • Rain cancels.
    • Tours last approximately 90 minutes.
    • Sign up here.
  • Virtual — A Hard Day’s Work on the Ranch: Living on a dairy ranch in the year 1900 took a lot of hard work and required working together as a team to be successful. This program explores some of the chores that children would have been expected to help with.
    • Available Wednesdays at 9 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. for students grade 2-3.
    • Tours can be modified to fit most grades’ curriculum.
    • Tours last approximately 60 minutes.
    • Sign up here.

Also, self-guided tours of Wilder Ranch are available when the workshops, barns, and Interpretive Center are open; call for the current schedule or with any questions: 831-426-0505.