Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park - Fall Creek Unit
Update July 2021: I visited this
park again and I still recommend visiting it although most of the north section
is close to visitors. It is great hike, not to long, no fire damage at all at the open
to public park section, running water in the Fall Creek even at summer and cooler temperatures
at a hot summer day.
What? : The Fall Creek
unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is separate park section just north of
the main park. This section is following the Fall Creek all-year long running stream and is dominated by second-growth impressive redwoods.
of the park is closed to visitor access because of the 2020 summer fire that burned
the northern section of the park.
Open trails (July 2021): Bennett Creek,
High School, Kiln Fire Road, South Fork, Truck, North Fall Creek (between Cape
Horn trail and Bennett Creek Trail.)
Where? : The Fall Creek
unit of Henry Cowell State Park entrance is located north of the main park
section. After turning into Felton Empire Road from highway #9 keep driving for
0.7 mile and you will see the small, un-paved parking lot.
When? : Year round, at
winter the forest trees will protect against the rain and wind and the stream
will have a strong flow, at summer the much cooler air will be refreshing and
the Fall Creek will have running water.
Due note 1: Henry Cowell
Redwoods State Park main section is located only 8 miles from Santa Cruz, it is
relatively popular and can be crowded, especially during weekends. On the other
hand, the Fall Creek Unit is less “famous” and has much less visitors, it offers
more nature hiking experience.
Due note 2: Dogs and
Biking are not allowed at the park.
Due note 3: Fall Creek is
open for day use only, there is no camping, no visitors center, and except the
small parking lot at Felton Empire Road there are no other facilities at Fall
Due note 4: There is only
a small parking lot, and you can’t park on the Felton Empire Road, try to come
early morning or later at the afternoon.
My thoughts: I visit this
park several times before the fire of 2020 summer and explore the longer trails
of the park. After the fires only small section of the park is re-open for
visitors but still this is a fun place to explore the second growth redwood forest
and enjoy the year-round running stream and colder temperatures during summer.
extension of Henry Cowell State Park, called Fall Creek Unit, contains over 20
miles of hiking trails on both sides of Fall Creek, the hills are covered with lush
vegetation and the towering second growth redwood forest. Along Fall Creek you
can find the ruins of a 19th-century lime manufacturing operation, including a
quarry and lime kilns.
In the early
1870′s, the IXL Lime Company constructed the lime kilns; In 1900, Henry Cowell
bought this land and incorporated it into the Cowell Lime and Cement Company.
blasted and transported to the kilns then it was loaded into the kilns and a
fire was kept burning for 3-4 days. After cooling, the lime was loaded into
barrels, and transported to Felton by wagon. From there it went to Santa Cruz
Five to six
thousand cords of wood were used annually for the kilns. During its peak years,
the quarry produced 50,000 barrels of lime a year, large quantities were used
in rebuilding San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.
The quarry was
shut down in 1919 after more efficient oil-fired kilns became common. The
barrel mill was closed in 1925 after which the property deteriorated.
You can see the
old kilns buildings ruins at your hike.
Short 3.6 miles hike:
parking lot you drop into the ravine below and once you reach the trail
junction with the fire road turn left into Fall Creek Trail.
Here you will enjoy
the cool shade of the redwoods and follow the stream on your right.
You'll reach a newly
renovated wooden bridge, at this point you start the trail loop, not so
important which direction to take.
Go left on
South Fork Trail and hike up into a side-creek, after short hike you will reach
the Lime Kilns remaining, this will be 1.3 miles from the parking lot. Give yourself
some time to explore this location and read the informative signs.
From this point
the Cape Horn Trail will climb some more and then start to go down to the main
creek. After 0.7 miles from the kilns you will connect back to the trail near
the main stream. Turn right into S-Cape Trail (downstream) and after short hike
take the Fall Creek Trail that keep going in the ravine, crossing few times the
stream water, additional 0.6 mile and you will come back the wooden bridge
junction, keep going back to the parking lot on the same trail we got in.
Overall, this is
fun not difficult hike, excellent for family & kids’ activity for the
Longer hiking options (clos as of
addition of 5 miles to the short hike. From Cape Horn Trail take left into Lost
Empire Trail that climb the hills. You will pass the Lost camp location until you
will reach the Big Ben Tree, large tree. From this point take down the Big Ben
Trail all the way to Fall Creek. Here turn right into the Fall Creek Trail
At this trail 1.4-mile-long
section there are many landslides and fallen trees that are left blocking the
paths, so hikers must find the way over or under them. This is a fun section of