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

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.

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.

China Creek Trail, Taylor Creek Trail off Briggs Valley Road

I am spending my vacation in Southern Oregon and will be mostly on the Rogue River but I had a day before my guided trip so I sought out a local hike not on the Rogue River.  The general manager of Morrison Lodge suggested hikes along Briggs Valley Road which goes 36 miles all the way to Highway 199.  The one lane road is paved and in good condition — more than I can say about the China Creek Trail.  At mileage marker 2.2 along the road is a vista overlook with an old sign with the trails marked, unfortunately the metal sign was used as target practice so the trails aren’t clear, however, there is narrative on numerous trails in the area.

The Taylor Creek Trail goes 10 miles along the road on the far side of the creek and is well maintained and marked.  There are several  different trailheads along the road.  I explored the trail from mileage marker 7 (spray painted on the paved road) and it was a great hike, mostly level but some gentle climbing .  You cross over two wooded bridges that have seen better days — there are boards missing and some old highway cones warning of the problem.   One bridge is now closed and the trail has been re-routed to cross the creek, easy to do in August.  Farther down you come across a mining claim that has an old tent cabin and table.  I highly recommend this trail for meandering in lush surroundings.

Another trail I did was the China Creek Trail.  This trail is 5.9 miles, total out and back, but is only well used for the first 1.5 miles.  Even this part was overgrown with poison oak so I would not  recommend it if you are sensitive to the stuff.  The hike is a good workout but you are climbing over some downed trees and the 3-4 inches of dead madrone leaves on some of the steep trail was slick.  The trail dead ends at the bottom at China Creek which is surprisingly good sized.  There is a log that crosses the creek but the trail seems to end there.  It looks like you may be able to bush-whack along the creek if you have the time and don’t mind more poison oak!  The return trip has you climbing out for over a mile, my guess is a total of 800 to 1,000 feet of total climbing.

There are numerous signs of bears along the trail with scat and dug  out areas.  Didn’t see any bears or any other wildlife.   If you are looking for a recommendation, I would skip this trip and do more hiking on the Taylor Creek Trail.

Fall Creek High School Trail to Truck Trail

High School Trail Loop: 9 miles, 1300 feet of climbing, moderately slow pace, 4 hours.

I took my usual hike starting from the San Lorenzo Elementary School parking lot. Traversing the east side of the track field the hike starts behind the field on the road between the childcare center and the environmental center. Today I took the Ridge Trail up to the Truck Trail. Instead of cutting down to the Fall Creek Trail I continued on the Truck Trail for a while. To my surprise it was a level, pleasant walk to a grove of mid-size redwoods named for a donor, Goldie. From here the trail soon started downhill so I turned around and retraced my steps to the junction down to Fall Creek. I went left at the creek, past the Barrel Mill Site and connected up with the North Trail. Fall Creek Park is basically divided up into the South fork and North fork sections of the creek. I took the level North Fork back to Fall Creek Drive and cut back to High School Trail.

Fall Creek Park in Felton/Truck Trail/South Ridge

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.