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.
It was Friday so I knew I couldn’t park at the San Lorenzo High School so I began this hike from the main dirt parking lot off of Empire Grade Road about two miles above Felton. I headed up to the Lime Kilns and then was planning on doing the loop up to Big Ben and back down Fall Creek. However, once I got to Lost Camp I realized I needed to get back so turned around to back track.
About 100 yards from Lost Camp I spotted a trail headed down from the left of the trail. I decided I had enough time to go exploring a little. The trail was obviously built by someone. Although it was steep by today’s trail standards it was a good trail with shovel marks that showed someone put a lot of work into it. The trail traversed below the Lost Empire Trail and then turned back in one long switchback, heading down toward Fall Creek. It was a good trail but was covered with fall leaves so had to pay attention. Any false trails were covered up to keep folks on track. Whoever made this trail wanted to make sure people didn’t get lost! The trail went down steeply and ended at a large beam bridge over Fall Creek that met up with the Fall Creek Trail. It didn’t look particularly sturdy to me, and was narrow so I elected to rock hop over the creek — easy to do in August but much harder in winter.
I was now on Fall Creek Trail with the barrel mill site down the trail to the left. This trail is great and probably knocks about a mile off of the regular loop trail. Next time I will pay more attention to distance. I hiked back up Fall Creek to the Lime Kiln Trail and out to the parking lot. About 3 hours and 1,500 of climbing. Maybe 7 miles or more.
Hike description: 8-9 miles, 1500 feet climbing. 3.75 hours.
This hike starts from Felton’s San Lorenzo High School parking lot. Fall Creek Park is park of Henry Cowell State Park. The High School trail starts behind the left corner of the bleacher seats of the football field. The road is not marked and passes the childcare center. This map that is posted on the Redwood Hikes website is great for tracing this hike. Take the High School Trail and head up Ridge Trail to Truck Trail. After hiking on the Truck Trail .75 miles I took a side trail on the right through an unmarked metal gate. This was a nice hike for about a half mile and then the road started going down hill sharply so I returned to Truck Trail. I explored off-trail to the left but the trail ended and it was surrounded by posion oak. Back on Truck Trail to the Big Ben Trail. The Truck Trail climbs and then Big Ben Trail heads back down to Fall Creek. Instead of going up to Big Ben I headed back down Fall Creek Trail past the Barrel Mill Site to The South Ridge Trail. I went past the Lime Kilms and connected back with the High School Trail. Hike would have been 40 minutes shorter without the side trips.
Just the facts: 8 miles, 1500-2000 elevation gain. Paved one lane roads, dirt roads, dirt trails. 4 hours.
I started from my home in South Felton (near Jackson Ave and San Lorenzo Ave) walked up to Scenic Drive. This area is private but lots of folks walk around the one-lane paved roads that meander through the redwoods. Start down Jackson Avenue until it ends and then turn right on Manzanita Avenue (no sign here). Walk a couple of blocks and turn left on McKinley Way and head down the steep road to Gold Ave. Walk the U of Gold Ave to Brookside Way and go left until it ends at Lakeview Dr. Turn left and walk about a half mile to Scenic Drive. Go left up Scenic Drive, a quiet paved road that climbs around a mile. Near the top there is a dirt road with a gate after 100 feet. At the gate a sign tells you that you are entering the upper campus of University of Santa Cruz. This road, named Marshall Trail is not marked from this side but there is a metal gate with a pedestrian walk-through. Walk along Marshall Road until you come to an open meadow at the top and connect to Chinquapin Fire Road.
If you take a left here you will end up in Santa Cruz’s Pogonip Park to Fuel Break Road. In 1999 Santa Cruz, the State and the University joined together to complete a trail from Henry Cowell State park to the Pacific Ocean. I want to hike this trail but not in winter — it crosses the San Lorenzo River in Henry Cowell State Park with no bridge. For this hike you take a right on Chiquapin Fire Road and cross Empire Grade Road and enter Wilder Ranch State Park. Stay on Chinquapin Trail about a half mile until Woodcutter Trail. Take Woodercutter to right and it is a pretty trail that stays near the ridge and ends 1.9 miles at Smith Grade. Back track to your car and feel free to choose different paved roads back (like Willow instead of Lakeview).