The Trail One List: Demo Flow Trail
Fully engineered fun
The Trail One List is our guide to the best mountain bike trails in the world. We know your riding time is precious and travel is expensive. We want you to finish these rides with a giant smile on your face and a heart full of stoke, knowing the juice was worth the squeeze.
Machine-built "flow" trails have been popping up all over the world in recent years. Some mountain bikers think of flow as a four letter word because it usually means the trail will be a highway with no rugged or natural features. When a flow trail is done wrong it deserves criticism, but when a flow trail is done right it's an awesome experience. The Soquel Demonstration Forest Flow Trail in Santa Cruz is beyond awesome, it's one of the best trails in the world.
The Flow Trail is three and a half miles of pure fun that almost every mountain biker will have a blast on. The climb to the top and the climb back to the car, however, won't be a blast for most folks. The price is worth paying, and if you're feeling good after your first run you've GOTTA do it again.
This flow trail is not a wide highway, most of it is a regular width singletrack ribbon rolling up, down and around the hillside. There are massive berms to help you stay in the zone and keep your speed dialed in. There's a lot of diving and dodging through the trees as you make your way to the bottom -- it is about the furthest thing from boring you can do on two wheels.
Because this is a trail that can be ridden by almost anyone, you may have riders coming up FAST behind you. Stay alert and pull over if you sense someone coming. If you are pulling up behind a slower rider, give a "Coming up behind you" shout and hopefully they'll get the message and pull over. Weekdays are a great way to have the trail all to yourself as weekends are almost always jam packed.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship keeps this trail, and most all of the trails in this area in tip top shape. When it rains it's best to stay away from the trail for a few days to make sure the trail dries out. The harder it rained, the longer we stay away.
There are several other trail options you can do in Soquel that will leave you with a smile on your face. I've done them all and still prefer doing two laps on The Flow Trail. The most common route is to climb up Aptos Creek Road and then ride Ridge Trail to Flow. Then climb back up Sulphur Springs and hit Braille.
The parking lot is located here and cell phone service is very limited on the drive in. Make sure to load up directions before you head out. The road in is a very narrow road and you will encounter oncoming cars.
Parking is hectic on the weekends, arrive early or late for a less stressful day. There have been MANY reports of smash and grab car break ins with cars parked on the road. I try to park inside the dirt lot that is over the bridge, as it feels more safe. But there are no guarantees either way. HIDE YOUR STUFF.
This ride can be done year round. The area can be cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, if you Google "Soquel Demonstration State Forest weather" you can get an idea of what you're in for.
By car, Soquel is 1 hour and 5 minutes from SFO Airport and 40 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz.
As of the writing of this guide, COVID restrictions have stopped the demo bike programs at Ibis, Santa Cuz and Specialized. This could change tomorrow, so do your Googlin'.
The Summit Store has great sandwiches and is the closest spot to grab a post-ride meal.