Waimea Canyon Trail from Kukui Trail to Waimea

On December 9, 2012 I revisited Waimea Canyon Trail via Kukui Trail.  Below is a writeup I did last year when I completed a one-way hike down the canyon to the town of Waimea.  Not much is available on this hike so I decided to post it since the information is still valid.   The big difference for this hike was the water level of Waimea River.  Last year I was crossing knee-hike  to thigh-high water that was murky red.  Although the water was warm, the 14 crossings were challenging.  I now know, from talking to an experienced Waimea Canyon hike leader, that the river only runs deep red when it is high, and should be crossed at these times by folks who have done these types of crossings before.  It is  probably not a good idea to do the hike under these conditions alone.

However, a year later the hiking conditions were totally different.  The hike down Kukui Trail was easy because it was dry, therefore, not as slippery when wet like last year.  However, it still drop 2,000 in 2.5 mile so it is steep in part and can be tricky.  When I reached Waimea River I was stunned with how low it was.  I had brought my Teva sandals in my daypack anticipated the river crossings, but the water was so low I could easily hop across rocks without getting my feet wet.  If I had hiked the Waimea Canyon Trail down to Waimea this time, the hike would have been moderate rather than strenuous.

Crossing the river last year 14 times when the river was high was tiring.  I had my car this time at the Kukui Trailhead so I hiked up Waimea Canyon instead of down.  I am taking an educated guess, that if you go down river when the water is very low you will not need to cross back and forth so much.  Please comment on my blog if you hike down the canyon.  I did discover why the river was so low —  up river the water was being diverted into a large drain/dam.  I have no idea if this is going to permanently impact the water level in Waimea River; however, locals in the town of Waimea did make comments about someone diverted the water and fish were now dying.  Who knows for sure.  Corn has now replaced the sugarcane crop.  Perhaps it is taking more water from the river on the dry side of Kauai.

Writup on Waimea Canyon Trail to town of Waimea:

On November 4, 2010, I hiked from Kukui Trail in Waimea Canyon to the town of Waimea.  I started at 8 am from the Trailhead which is located between mile marker 8 and 9 on highway 550.  The 2.5 mile hike down was uneventful, but a little slippery with mud, loose dirt and rocks.  Look for trail and stay off the cuts to switchbacks.  Once you reach trail marker 1.75 the trail enters the forest.  The trail was easy to follow but in spring could be overgrown.

At the bottom was a backpacking camp with a pit toilet.  The site was covered with cherry plums on the ground and smelled like rotting fruit. I walked straight down to the river and was dismayed to see how high the river looked.  however, this was not the trail. I backtracked and found a sign that had Waimea Canyon Trail down the road to the right.  Soon the first river crossing appears.  It took me some time to figure the best place to cross.  The entire trail down Waimea Canyon is mostly a soft, red dirt road.  However, there are 14 river crossings as the trail goes from side to side.  After a mile and six river crossings I came to a power station and found a man working would told me that there were 14 river crossings in total.  Also the river only gets slightly larger with most of the water coming from deep in the park and not from side streams.  So, no need to worry about that — just worry about the storms upstream that may cause flash flooding.  Watch on the river crossings to see if the water is getting higher.  I am not sure the total distance from the backpacking camp to the beginning of the paved road to Waimea but someone scratched 9.5 in the sign so I am using that.  There is one long section that climbs a bit on the left side of the canyon so feel free to put the hiking boots back on.  The road follows the ditch for quite a while and then the road cuts up hill after crossing a metal bridge.  Continue straight on a foot trail that follows the ditch.  it will join back up to the road in a half mile.

Soon the road takes a turn back down to the river.  The road is made of rock on this part as it drops 200 feet back down to cross the river again.  just when I was getting use to dry hiking.  A note on the river crossings –  the water is brown from the red dirt and hard to see the bottom so step carefully.  A hiking pole is really helpful.  Do not lift your foot up before you are sure the other is securely planted.  Look at the crossing to see where the vehicles are crossing so you can cross at the shallow part.  Not always easy to see, especially when the river runs red.Image

Rhus Ridge to Black Mountain Update

Yesterday I took off work early to tackle Rhus Ridge to Black Mountain again.  This time the weather was clear and cool and it took me 3.5 hours to complete the 9.6 miles, 2400 feet of climbing.  The parking lot on Rhus Road is small, and remains a problem for starting hikes from here, especially on weekends.  It was a nice day, and when I arrived at 3 pm on a Monday there was only one spot left in the lot.  There is no parking along the road.   I would suggest hikers drive the extra mile down the main road and begin the hike on the Hostel Trail in Hidden Villa if the lot is full.  It is similar in distance to the top of Black Mountain and Hidden Villa has ample parking (they do charge a nominal amount.)  Please read my previous blog on the Rhus Ridge hike for more information.  The trail is the same, it only feels different depending on the weather.

Fall Creek Revisited

I spent another great day hiking The High School Trail in Fall Creek. Please read my earlier blogs for the location of the park and trailhead. On weekends, I continue to prefer starting my hike from San Lorenzo High School rather than the dusty, small parking lot off of Empire Grade Road. Yesterday I hiked the mile long High School Trail to the S-scape Trail, continuing up to the Truck Trail, which is actually a dirt road. There are now two trails one can take down to the South Fork Fall Creek Trail. Both come in from the left and have no signs. The first trail is a new one – I am not sure it was built by the park staff but it is easy to follow, if you can follow trail markers. The trail is on the left about 1/2 miles down Truck Trail. It is currently marked with two 7 foot tall poles stuck in the ground. This trail is less than a mile, and drops you down just before the Barrel Mill Site. If you continue climbing up the Truck Trail road for another 1/2 mile you will see The Big Ben Trail on the left, currently marked with bright pink surveyor tape wrapped around a redwood tree. The sign has been missing for about a year now. Yesterday I chose this trail down. It is a little longer and steeper than the first trail. I took a left at the intersection at Fall Creek and headed back down the South Fork. After passing the Barrel Mill Site you will see the unmarked trail on the left that was previously described.

Continue down the South Fork, crossing foot bridges and other trails. Take the trail toward Fall Creek Drive. If you just take all the trails to the left, you will find your way back to the High School Trail. If you find yourself at Fall Creek Drive, no worries, just backtrack 1/4 mile and look for the sign to the high school on the right. Take the mile long trail back to the school. Total hike took me 3 hours so it is around 7 miles with 600 feet of climbing.

Update on High School Trail at Fall Creek

Just a quick update on finding the High School Trail for Fall Creek in Felton.  The trail does start behind the San Lorenzo High School stadium; however, there is construction going on at the elementary school next door so you have to walk around it all by the swimming pool.  Also, many of the locals have walked their dogs on this trail for years but the state has now posted a “no dog” sign.  It doesn’t seem to stop people, though.   This is still a gorgeous, mostly level trail surrounded by redwood trees.  It is a much better entrance into Fall Creek on the weekends.  There is plenty of parking at the high school.

Hours of Operation for Rancho San Antonio

Just an update on my blog on Rancho San Antonio about hours that the park is open.  Because the park is so heavily used, and rangers want to keep people from parking in the neighborhoods (Cristo Rey Drive and Hammond Way, Cupertino, CA ), the park usually opens around 5:30 a.m.  and closes after 8 p.m.   Only one gate is closed so people can still drive out even if the entrance gate is closed.  This park is very crowded on weekends so it is difficult to find parking on weekend mornings, especially around 8-9 a.m.  If you can’t find parking in the three available lots, you can park about a mile back down the main road and walk up the Hammond Synder Loop Trail which opened in 2006 but is not on the Santa Clara County’s park map.

Rancho San Antonio — Hours of Operation

I have been hitting the trail pretty early these days on the PG&E Trail at Rancho San Antonio. One day the gate was locked at 7 am even though the hours said from dawn to dusk. Inside the park the hours are posted from 8am to 5pm. So what are the true hours of the park? I asked a park ranger the other day and he told me he wasn’t quite sure because the gates are on an automatic timer, but he thought it opened by 6am or 6:30am at the latest.   One day there was a malfunction so it did not open until 7:30 am although people could get around because the exit no longer had the metal prongs that stick up to slash tires.   Apparently, the dawn to dusk rules doesn’t apply during winter when users of the park still come in during their usual hours. I assume it also stays open past dark.