It was a smoky November. So hazy, one cannot see ridges around Bay Area. Even coast had poor air quality. We spent two weekends in a row doing nothing, and I felt anxious. Dunno how I decided that redwood forests on the west side of Santa Cruz Mountains should be okay to hike.
Visit of Fall Creek Unit was long overdue. And so we drove to Felton on the unusually empty. The parking lot that I expected should be full (how could be otherwise in the middle of Sunday in busy Bay Area!?) had 6 parked cars only!
There was another reason why we did nothing at all for almost half a month. Back in October Eugene injured his ankle and had trouble even to move it. I wished we would make a longer trail but taking into account his leg the only option was the shortest trail in the park – to and back from lime kilns.
The Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell State Park occupies a steep canyon on the side of Ben Lomond Mountain. The park is almost entirely wooded with dense second-growth redwood-dominant forests. The creek and lime kilns are the main attraction.
The route I selected starts from the parking lot as Bennet Creek Trail, then follows Fall Creek Trail for 0.6 miles after that keeps left on South Fork trail reaching kilns. The return way is a bit different. From Powder Magazine we walked Cape Horn trail to North Fork and back to Fall Creek.
The route follows Fall Creek and its forks, so there are some hardwood trees along the way. And as foliage peak didn’t pass, bright yellow and orange trees added the pop of color to the milky air and dusty green fir of the young redwoods. There are also a lot of fallen trees along the way, and only a few big redwoods. If you want to see what those trees could be, you still need to visit the main section of the park and check its Redwood Grove trail.
Usually very popular trail to Lime Kilns was almost empty. We met only three other hikers near them. But I suppose, I should be “thankful” to the extreme condition.
The Ben Lomond Fault that runs right through the heart of the park exposes vast amounts of limestone. Henry Cowell bought an interest in the company that mined lime here in 1865.
At its highest demand, 80% of lime came from Santa Cruz County. I also should mention that all surrounding trees were burned to keep kilns burning and left hills bare.
The Fall Creek kilns were closed only in 1919.
After leaving kilns trail goes for a some time uphill, and you can continue to the Ridge Trail to make a loop longer, however we returned back to the shady Fall Creek trail and retraced our way back.
- Trail length 3.3 miles
- Parking and trailhead on Google Maps
- Official Park Page
- Almost similar route on alltrails.com