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.
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.
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!