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Land Of Medicine Buddha Hike

Updated: May 4, 2022

Location : Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center, Soquel, CA.

Parking : Free

Trail type : Loop

Trail Length : 6 miles

Elevation Gain : 984ft

Difficulty : Moderate

Trails traversed : 6 Miles Trail Loop > 8 Verse Trail Loop

Post Hike Grub suggestion : Woodstock Pizza, Santa Cruz.

This trail was a hidden gem of the Bay Area until June of 2021. When Covid struck, folks began to look for new local activities and thanks to social media, this place soon became everyone's favorite. When we went in June, the trail and the Buddhist Monastery was pretty much deserted, and there was a $5 charge for parking. I have heard that the parking fee has been removed since. The Monastery is open only on certain days. So check the website before going.

Once you enter the premise, drive all the way up the road to park at the top of the hill. The 6 miles trail loop starts right next to the parking lot. Since the trail is a loop, traverse it in the clockwise direction, so you save the best, ie. the Buddhist Monastery, till the last. If you go in the counter-clockwise direction, the ascend is very steep.

The trail is fully shaded under a thick canopy of redwoods . This serene trail runs next to Bates creek for the first couple of miles and is pretty flat. As you walk on the lush carpet of fallen redwood bark and leaves, you feel an air of magic and calmness around you and wonder if the spiritual retreat has anything to do with how you are feeling.

Tree stumps struck by lightening mark your path and make great photo-ops.

Soon the trail turns into switchbacks and gets steeper as it climbs uphill. Once you reach the top of the hill, you will be greeted by colorful prayer flags signifying the Monastery close by. The trail slowly begins to descend as you pass by many more prayer flags and small Buddhist artifacts placed in the grooves and holes of the tree trunks.

Colorful prayer flags all along the trail.

When the Monastery comes within view, you can cut short your hike and head straight towards it, or continue on for another 2 miles on the Eight Verse Trail Loop. On this last leg of the loop, you will encounter 8 shrines dedicated to various Buddhist verses with a comfortable bench in front of each shrine to contemplate the meaning of the verse. As you read each verse and come to the end of your hike, you feel an inner calmness and peace that you may not have experienced on any other hike.

On your way to your parked car, you will pass by a gigantic statue of Buddha, a large colorful prayer wheel, a few smaller prayer wheels and a gong. Give the prayer wheels a spin and gently strike the gong before you end this spiritual journey and head back home.

The giant, colorful prayer wheel.

More prayer wheels to turn

The giant golden Buddha statue that greeted us at the end of the hike


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