The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park


Where? : Located at Aptos city, just few miles south of Santa Cruz on hwy 1.

Google Map Link


What? : A large park covering the mountain range with dance Redwood forest and deep creeks and streams. Many hike options both easy and also long.


When? : Year round, at summer it is not hot to walk inside the forest near the running water at the creek and at winter the trees protect you from direct rain and wind.


Due note 1: I only visit here few times; I did not explore all what the park has to offer.


Due note 2: Mountain Bike friendly park that can offer long epic rides into the mountains.


Due note 3: the lower section is popular at weekends.


Due note 4: There is a vehicle day-use fee that can be use in any other State park at the same day, so if you are going later to Seacliff State Beach keep the receipt.


My thoughts: A nice park that is good for short hikes at warm weekend that can be combined with beach visit just across hwy 1 and a place that can offer few long and strenuous hikes.


The visit:

Nice deep redwood with many hikes’ options.

The park main entrance is on Aptos creek road, after the entrance it continue as well-maintained dirt road that getting additional 1 mile inside the creek up to the Gorge Picnic Area.

Another park entrance option is to Park at the Safeway parking lot at Soquel Dr., cross the road into the small Aptos Rancho Rd, after few hundred feet the road ands and there is a small trail entering the park and the woods.


The Hikes:

If you chose to use the “Safeway entrance” you immediately get into the wood, and the running river in the creek.

The trail crosses the water to the other side (no bridge) and you can continue walking on Aptos Pancho Trail parallel to the road or take the loop trails on the other side of the hill side. Overall this section of the park is nice and hikes here are good also for small kids.

You can keep going all the way to George Picnic Aria and from there deeper into the wood.


If you parked your car at the end of the road George Picnic Area you will cross the large steel bridge and keep walking on the main fire road.

From this point I only hike one trail to Maple Falls (Orange trail in the above map) but there are few other options that climb the mountains to the west (will add to this blog once I will do them).

Another mountain bikes popular trail is going up the dirt road to the high viewpoint.

The hike to Maple Falls (Orange color at the map above):

This is 8 miles in and out hike along Bridge Creek Trail along the river (no uphill) all the way to the Maple Waterfall (the waterfall can be dry at summer).

After Porter Family Picnic Area take the Loma Prieta Grade trail and then turn right into Bridge Creek Trail, this trail will take you back near the river. You will cross the river and then you will get into the narrow canyon.

Keep going near the water until you will reach the nice waterfall, this is the end of the trail. There are 4 miles from this point back to the parking lot.