Telling someone you go to UC Santa Cruz can bring out many different reactions in people. But one of the most common, and definitely the most accurate, is that it is stunningly beautiful. Between dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean and epic redwood trees, the best of both worlds is right here where you live and go to school. This wonderful place is our home, our sanctuary, our playground.
Here’s a guide to the best views on campus, from breathtaking views near East Field to the highly visible Porter Squiggle. Most of these are obvious, and there are plenty of places not mentioned because some views are more difficult to get to. But while this guide is meant to simply remind you to look up and take in your daily surroundings on the way to class, be sure to take advantage of what UCSC has to offer and do your own exploring in order to find your own sacred spot.
Located on the east side of campus, behind the white Stevenson dorms (or casas, as they’re called) is Stevenson Knoll, a hillside hangout that overlooks the green, luscious East Field, the gym, the city of Santa Cruz, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Not only does this knoll boast one of the best views on campus, but it’s comfortable and peaceful with multiple benches (six, to be exact), including a picnic table, that make it enjoyable to sit with a friend or do some homework. There’s no excuse to read or do homework inside when there’s a nearby space like this. Further behind the cove of trees that surrounds these benches is a seventh bench, covered by a permanent canopy, so you can still enjoy the view during the wet Santa Cruz days.
The east side doesn’t get all the fun, though. Oakes has some pretty spectacular views of its own. Oakes Meadow, located behind the West Remote parking lot, is a bed of dry grass, but one of the best places to lay out a blanket and hang out with friends, especially to watch the sunset. Separated by Empire Grade, across the street is a field that looks different every day, depending on the sun, clouds, and the weather. It may not be the best place to go to on hot days though, as there’s not much shade around to keep cool.
Oakes Lower Field
Directly to the left of the meadow is the Oakes Lower Field, a plush field of green grass that also overlooks the ocean. An alternative to the dry grassy meadow, the lower field is perfect for some sunbathing and a picnic. There’s a wooden deck that would be good for doing some outdoor yoga. On a clear night and a full moon, you can sit at the bench and watch the moon reflecting off the water. Breathtaking.
The untitled red sculpture, lovingly nicknamed the Porter Squiggle, sits upon a hill that welcomes entrants from the west side of campus. Atop this metal sculpture (which I think resembles a woman’s curves) you can find people taking pictures for their Facebook profile (be sure to get your obligatory picture too!), or someone singing and strumming the guitar. From here, you can see and be seen by tennis players, College Eighters, and people hustling and bustling at this busy section of campus. Sunsets are beautiful here — the sky is streaked blue, red, orange, and pink and is sometimes complemented with a silver moon, not unlike a watercolor painting. Turn your head a quarter of a turn and you’ll see the Porter Meadow trees lining the horizon like something out of a Bob Ross painting. The Porter Squiggle is an iconic sculpture with epic scenery as well — a place to absorb the characters and essence of Santa Cruz. A sublime place to be.
In the middle of campus, between the Media Theater and library, lies the ARCenter, a little-known spot home to many academic programs such as MSI, STARS, and Student Media. Reminiscent of a ski lodge, this is a great location for studying on the patio at any of the abundant white plastic tables and chairs or on a huge wooden bench, with some coffee from the independent, former-student-owned Back Perch Café. This is a serene terrace, which offers views of the Music Center, the ocean, and a wide open plain that is home to countless squirrels, rabbits and deer.
Just down the road is the Music Center, a series of tan block-like buildings that offer a refuge for musicians at Kretschmer Plaza. Elevated above classrooms, this area overlooks a triangular patch of green grass, rolling hills of amber grass, and windy bike trails with bicyclists whizzing by. Another skyline of trees lines the left side. This is a wonderful place to be, where the night feels open and the stars glimmer.