Soquel Demonstration State Forest 

Soquel Demonstration State Forest (SDSF) is situated in the Santa Cruz Mountains along California's central coast. Originally part of a Mexican land grant, the property was logged by several different owners prior to the State taking ownership in 1988. Today, the forest is managed for sustainable timber production, research, educational activities, public recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and watershed protection. SDSF is unique because it is the only State Forest located near large urban areas. Its proximity to the metropolitan centers of the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay Area provides excellent opportunities for hands-on forestry education and outdoor recreation while demonstrating a working forest for the public.

SDSF contains coast redwood, Douglas-fir, mixed hardwood, chaparral, and riparian ecosystems along the East Branch of Soquel Creek and Amaya Creek. The forest is geologically active, with the San Andreas and Zayante Faults passing through the property. There are several natural springs and small marshes found in closed depressions that are associated with the forest’s geologic activity. The epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake is approximately two miles south of SDSF, in the neighboring Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.

Soquel Demonstration State Forest
Forest Stats:
Area: 2,700 acres
Elevation: 450 - 2,400ft
Precipitation: 47.53 in per year 
Temperature: Max: 90 F - Min: 32 F

Soquel Demonstration State Forest Roads and Trails Map
CAL FIRE Soquel Demonstration State Forest | Facebook
Soquel Demonstration State Forest Weather Website (

The Forest is open from dawn to dusk daily. No Camping Permitted. 

Sustainable Timber Management

A major purpose of the SDSF timber management program is to demonstrate sustained yield management with examples of timber harvesting. In simple terms, sustained yield is the yield of commercial wood that an ownership can produce continuously at a given intensity of management consistent with required environmental protection and which is professionally planned to achieve, over time, a balance between growth and harvest. SDSF is used to demonstrate examples of timber harvesting under sustained yield management, while also sustaining or improving air, fish and wildlife, water resources, watersheds, aesthetic values, and recreation. Silvicultural methods and harvest techniques that can be applied under the California Forest Practice Rules for the Southern Subdistrict of the Coast Forest District are and will continue to be researched and utilized to demonstrate sustained yield management with an uneven-aged forest structure. A secondary goal of harvesting timber is to generate revenue to cover maintenance, operation, and other costs of SDSF. This includes funds needed for research, inventory, monitoring, and rehabilitation projects of the various resources in SDSF.


DSF's recreational management goal is to provide for uses that are compatible and integrated with resource protection, public education, and forest management. Access for public recreation is at 29400 Highland Way in Los Gatos.  At this location there is a parking area across the Soquel Creek Bridge off Highland Way.  There is a portable toilet located inside the yellow gate.  There is no developed drinking water source at the forest.  The policy for recreation at State Forests is for it to be rustic and non-motorized, therefore all classes of electric bikes are prohibited. The forest is open from dawn to dusk.

SDSF offers a range of rustic, day-use recreational opportunities including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and picnicking. Mountain biking is by far the most popular recreational activity at SDSF with about 10 miles of single-track trails. Popular routes for mountain biking are accessed along Ridge Trail first by climbing up either Sulphur Springs Road or Aptos Creek Fire Road (via The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park) and then descending through the forest on Corral, Braille, Flow or Sawpit Trails. Hihn’s Mill Road is the main access unpaved road through the forest connecting the parking area and the bottom of all the single-track trails.


Research opportunities in SDSF are numerous, offering small or large, general or specific, and experimental subjects.  Research efforts at SDSF have provided management staff with baseline data regarding the geology, archaeology, hydrology, and overall ecosystem health in the forest. Monitoring takes place regularly to assess the benefits and risks of timber operations in watersheds close to urban areas. A complete field survey for archaeological and historical sites was completed after the establishment of the SDSF.  Numerous sites were located, and many more intensive surveys have been conducted.  Other studies include a biotic inventory and assessment, numerous bird surveys and botanical surveys, research on blood-borne disease, regular herpetological surveys, and research as part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Puma Project. Extensive geologic surveys and mapping, recreation studies, as well as periodic forest-wide timber inventories have been completed.  Hydrologic and stream habitat studies have been ongoing as well as monitoring of stream enhancement projects.  Assessments and studies of the movement and function of large woody debris have been conducted with additional project work for stream enhancement planned.  CAL FIRE has provided incentives through Forest Health Research Grants including Demonstration State Forests and in 2020, Cal Poly University researchers were awarded a research grant that will focus over four years on SDSF impacts of increasing pace and scale of forest health and fuel reduction treatments along with the carbon, water, policy and economic linkages.