Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park - Fall Creek Unit

Introduction:

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.

 

Important note:

Unfortunately, most 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.

Google Map Link

 

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 Creek Unit.

 

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.

 

The visit:

The northern 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.

 

History:

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.

Limestone was 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 by railroad.

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.

 

Hiking:

 

Short 3.6 miles hike:

From the 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 weekend.

 

Longer hiking options (clos as of 2021):

This is 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 heading downstream.

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 the trail.

 

www:

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=546

https://thatsmypark.org/parks-and-beaches/fall-creek-state-park/

 

Map:

https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/546/files/henrycowellredwoodsfinalweblayout2013.pdf

 

Pictures:





















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