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.

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Fall Creek/Henry Cowell State Park/Felton, CA

Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell State Park is a jewel of a park.  Hike description:  Start at San Lorenzo Valley High School parking lot (weekends only).  10-11 miles, 2000 feet climbing.

Moderate hike for people in shape. Get trail map at Henry Cowell State Park main entrance one mile west on Highway 9 on the other side of Felton.  This is a beautiful hike among redwood trees and deep canyon streams.  Bathrooms at High School swimming pool when open.

I began this hike from the San Lorenzo Valley High School parking lot.  Only park here on weekends or holidays. You can pick up the high school trail at the northeast side of the running track next to the childcare center. Follow the road back into the woods and take the trail quickly down into the gully over the wood bridge and up and over. If you take the well beaten path to the dam you have gone too far.

The High School Trail is a beautiful, flat trail that meanders through the redwoods for a mile and links up with the Fall Creek Drive Trail. Before it ends, take the trail up an unmarked trail which will soon meet up with the S-Cape Trail.  If you go straight you will climb up to the Truck Trail.  If you take this route it will add some more elevation but minimal distance. You will run into fewer people this way because the trail begins climbing. This trail is also recommended after a heavy rain because Fall Creek lives up to its name — trees fall everywhere!

Today I chose to take the North Trail along the creek to the Barrel Mill Site and found myself climbing over four trees and balancing over logs for one creek crossing because the removable bridge was out (it is made to be removed in bad weather). The park has two cool historic sites: barrel making and lime kilms. This hike passes them both. I didn’t stop for lunch at the barrel making site because it was threatening rain but it is a good site if not already taken by a hiking group on a nice day. Farther down the trail catches up to the Big Ben Trail and here you have to find your way over the creek — easy in Summer but you can be in for a wet crossing in winter. I had to wait several minutes for a traffic jam of six horses who happened to meet up at the creek crossing going in opposite directions.

When I finally got ready to cross I had to locate a couple of large branches to throw over to make a temporary bridge. You need good balancing skills for this!  Except in Summer when the creek is low, you can expect to get feet wet here.  After crossing the trail slowly climbs with switchbacks to a large tree which is a gorgeous douglas fir, but not Big Ben. Finally, after this false hope, you climb some more and reach a resting spot and the big redwood tree.

From here it is all downhill on the Lost Empire Trail past the Lost Camp to the Lime Kilm Site. This site is great for kids and you can plan another easy 1 hour round-trip hike from the main parking lot (see map). I highly recommend it but it is still a climb for those who may not be in the best of shape.

After exploring the area I headed back down the South Trail to the Fall Creek Trail. This whole area will be fairly crowded (compared to the north side) because of its close proximity to the main parking lot. After getting close to the end of Fall Creek Drive Trail you will meet up again with High School Trail on the left. One mile to go and I ended up back at the stadium for the high school.

I was pretty amazed to see all the activity at the high school for a wintry weekend. There was a coed softball game going on, scuba-diving school in the pool, a quarterback practicing his throwing with his coach, the high school boys baseball team taking to the field, and lacrosse practice. Go Wildcats! I am getting over an injury so it took me five hours to complete this hike.  Normally the hike is completed in 3.5-4 hours.