As it is still physically impossible for me to ride my bike- 3 weeks into an 8 week recovery- here is another awesome hike for all you walking-wounded and nature lovers who can't ride due to recovering from your own mountain bike- induced injuries, or just want a change of pace for the day to see more of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains that you can't enjoy on your bike. But don't worry- I WILL BE BACK, working with all you beginners and newbies out there, teaching you to ride your bikes, and learn from your mistakes :)
Moderate Hike - be prepared for river crossings at about 2 feet, and also there will be a swimming hole so bring what you feel you might need if you think you may jump in.
6.4 miles round-trip
1000 foot elevation change
$10 day-use fee per vehicle- Carpools can meet at Felton Safeway-Comment below if you would like to carpool.
From I-280 in San Jose, take Highway 17 south for 24 miles to Scotts Valley. Take the Mount Hermon Road exit, turn right, and drive 3.5 miles. Turn right on Graham Hill Road and drive 0.1 mile to Highway 9. Turn left on Highway 9 and drive 0.6 mile to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park on the left. Continue past the entrance kiosk to the visitors center and main parking lot. Follow the signs to the Redwood Grove and Redwood Loop Trail.
Or, from Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, take Highway 9 north for six miles to the right turnoff for the park.
Let's meet in front of the Nature Center once we are inside the park.
COPIED FROM INKLING.COM (and map)
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is celebrated for its ancient groves of coast redwoods. It’s famous for its Roaring Camp Railroad steam trains, whose whistles blow as they steam around tracks that carve through the center of the park. And the park is well known for the San Lorenzo River, whose rushing waters are home to runs of salmon and steelhead in winter.
But surprisingly, most visitors never hike any farther than the 0.75-mile Redwood Grove Loop Trail that starts by the nature center. Too bad, because miles of footpaths roll gently alongside the river, cruising through dense groves of redwoods, laurels, and Douglas firs, and traversing chaparral-covered slopes. This loop trip tours these areas and visits many of the park’s highlights.
Note that the loop described requires two unbridged crossings of the San Lorenzo River. If you’re hiking when the river is running too high, you’ll have to shorten the loop to bypass the fords. Use good judgment about crossing. Also, carry a park map to help negotiate your way through this loop’s many junctions.
Begin your hike by following the short Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This popular path through huge first-growth redwoods is worth seeing; the rest of the park’s redwoods are mostly second-growth. Take either leg of the loop into the marvelous virgin grove, then exit the trail at the far end of the loop. Follow the signed path to paved Pipeline Road, which is popular with dog walkers and bicyclists. Cross the pavement and pick up the hikers-only River Trail, which parallels Pipeline Road and closely follows the east bank of the river. Although the river is only a few inches deep in summer, it can be 20–30 feet deep during winter rains. Its banks are lined with willows, cottonwoods, and sycamores.
In the summer months, hikers ford the San Lorenzo River to access the swimming hole at Big Rock Hole.©… (https://www.inkling.com/read/moon-101-great-hikes-san-francisco-bay-area-ann-marie-brown-4th/chapter-4/ch04-unfigure-29)
In short order, you’ll pass under a railroad trestle crossing the San Lorenzo River. Chances are good that at some point during your hike you’ll hear the wail of a train screeching around a curve in the canyon. The privately operated Roaring Camp Railroad runs through the park (the ticket office and station are located near the parking lot by the nature center). Some say that the trains sound more like the “Wailing” Camp Railroad.
A quarter-mile beyond the trestle, River Trail and neighboring Pipeline Road meet up with Eagle Creek and its namesake trail. Bear left on Eagle Creek Trail, heading through the redwoods and Douglas firs to begin a moderate ascent into higher, madrone- and manzanita-covered slopes. The trail gets steeper as you go. Small cascades and pools line the stream after winter rains.
Soon after crossing Eagle Creek on a footbridge, turn right on Pine Trail. The earth beneath your feet suddenly gets sandy, and walking becomes more difficult on the sunny, exposed ridge. Follow the signs leading through sun-loving chaparral to the park’s observation deck.
This 15-foot-high concrete structure is surrounded by a picnic table, hitching post, and water fountain, plus two surprising kinds of trees: knobcone pines and ponderosa pines. The latter, with its distinctive jigsaw puzzle bark, usually is found at much higher elevations in places like the Sierra Nevada. Here at 800 feet in elevation in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the ponderosa pine grows only in this strange “sand hill chaparral” community. This region’s sandy soil is what remains of an ancient ocean floor. Four million years ago, a shallow sea completely covered the area.
Walk up the observation platform’s stairs and you’ll have a somewhat obstructed view of Monterey Bay. Even if the view is only fair, the sunny platform is a convenient place to sit down and have lunch, or maybe take a catnap.
If the San Lorenzo River was running wide and deep at the start of your trip, now is the time to cut this loop short and follow Ridge Fire Road downhill and back to River Trail. If the river looks safe to cross, continue on Pine Trail to its junction with Powder Mill Fire Road. Follow Powder Mill downhill for 0.5 mile to where it crosses Pipeline Road, then take single-track Buckeye Trail downhill for another 0.5 mile through several switchbacks and across the San Lorenzo River. This is the first of two fords. On the river’s far side, Buckeye Trail winds along the riverbank, then crosses it again. Pass an obvious swimming hole on your left, Big Rock Hole, which is lined with granite boulders. If it’s summertime, you’ll be tempted to take a dip.
After a swim and a rest, you’ll be ready to climb again. Follow Big Rock Hole Trail steeply uphill for 0.5 mile to its junction with Rincon Fire Road, where you’ll find the Cathedral Redwoods Grove. These trees aren’t as large or old as those on the Redwood Loop Trail, but they offer more solitude and a chance to catch your breath after the challenging climb.
Rincon Fire Road continues northward back to a junction with River Trail. The latter will bring you back to the Eagle Creek junction, the railroad trestle, Pipeline Road, Redwood Loop Trail, and finally, the nature center and your car.
Information and Contact
A $10 day-use fee is charged per vehicle. Leashed dogs are allowed only on paved Pipeline Road. Bikes are allowed on some trails. A park map is available at the entrance kiosk and/or nature center for $2. A detailed map of the area is available from Pease Press, 415/[masked], www.peasepress.com (http://www.peasepress.com/) (ask for the Trails of Santa Cruz map). For more information, contact Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, 101 North Big Trees Park Road, Felton, CA 95018, 831/[masked] or 831/[masked] (nature center),www.mountainparks.org (http://www.mountainparks.org/).