Hike description: Around 7-8 miles, 1,800 feet cumulative elevation gain. 3 hours. No water or restrooms at road but can detour a short distance by observation deck to campground if needed. Map of Henry Cowell State Park Hike from Graham Hill Road
Trails hiked today: Park at Graham Hill Road Entrance, 1 mile west of campground entrance. Powder Mill Trail to Powder Mill Fire Road Left on Pine Trail and keep left up to Observation Deck continue up Pine Trail to left on Eagle Creek Trail to left on River Trail to end then right on Rincon Road to Big Rock Hole Trail. Remain on Big Rock Hole Trail until it ends at the River. Retrace your tracks back up to Rincon Fire Road and take this road to the right crossing the Big Rock Hole Trail twice. At Ridge Fire Road take a right to Pipe Line Road. Take a right on Pipe Line Road and end back at the parking lot.
This hike is away from the main Visitor Center Entrance. Parking is free and along Graham Hill Road. This hike is best in “off season” when you can beat the summer heat and the crowded campground. Trails are muddy in winter and well worn and rutted by heavy use by horses and hikers. Some of the steps were more like retaining walls. The hike travels through redwood canyons as well as sandy pine-forested ridges.
The Big Rock Hole Trail is straight down to the river for .75 of a mile. I never could find the “Big Rock Hole” but it may have been under high water. I scouted down a couple of side trails looking for it but did not have time to really look for it. Would not recommend crossing the San Lorenzo River in winter unless you are an experienced backpacker with river crossing knowledge. The hike down to the river is well worth the view.
This hike touches the river twice but does not cross it. All trails over Eagle Creek have sturdy bridges but there are none over the river.
This is not a trail for a lot of solitude. Luckily I was down at the river for 15-20 minutes alone so I could enjoy it. I am sure in summer it is even more crowded than this sunny winter Sunday. Good signage but I would recommend printing out the map above or purchasing a map at the visitor center kiosk or campground. There are also many variations of the hike you can check out on the map. The Pipe Line Trail is paved and is the main trail for leisurely walking dogs. I tried to stay off it but it was a pleasant enough road with good views. The distance and elevation are estimates. I am getting a GPS soon!