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Fall Creek Unit (Henry Cowell)

Fall Creek Trail
 
Loop to limekilns is 3.2 miles round trip with 200-foot elevation gain;
to Trail’s End is 7.2 miles round trip with 900-foot gain

The forks of Fall Creek, a forest of second-generation redwoods and Douglas fir are some of the attractions of a walk through this isolated area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Located on the slopes of Ben Lomond Mountain in a wild canyon northwest of Felton, this part of the park also boasts a lush creekside habitat of ferns, big-leaf maple and alder.

Hikers with a historical interest will enjoy traveling to old limekilns and a millsite. In the 1870s, IXL Company built three limekilns, producing nearly a third of the state’s lime supply. Park namesake Henry Cowell took over the business at the turn of the century and under his guidance much of the lime used in the cement necessary to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake was produced at the Fall Creek works. Fall Creek redwoods were logged in order to construct redwood barrels for storing lime and for logs to fire the limekilns.

Today a second generation redwood forest is thriving along Fall Creek and the long-abandoned, moss-covered kilns with their arched opening, are a photographer’s delight.

Old wagon roads, now park paths, travel along lovely Fall Creek and lead to the old kilns and barrel mill site.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, turn north on Highway 9 and drive five miles to Felton. Turn left (west) on Felton Empire Road and proceed 0.5 mile to the small Fall Creek parking area.

The hike: Join switchbacking Bennett Creek Trail for 0.25 mile to its junction with Fall Creek Trail, staying left and heading up-creek. About 0.8 mile out, you’ll cross the South Fork Bridge, pass an intersection with South Fork Trail (your return route) and continue along the north fork of Fall Creek through a mixed woodland of redwood, fir, tanoak and maple.

Another 0.6 mile walk brings you to Cape Horn Trail junction. (Those inclined toward a shorter (3.2 mile) Fall Creek exploration should go left here.)

North Fork hikers cross the creek on twin logs and enter redwood forest. Regard the ruins of Barrel Mill and continue through the redwoods to trail’s end at a tiny dam 3.6 miles from the trailhead.

Retrace your steps to Cape Horn Trail, a dirt road which soon leaves the creek, climbs a short while, then descends to the South Fork of Fall Creek and the limekiln area. Next you’ll join South Fork Trail and follow it a 0.4 mile back to North Fork Trail, turning right and walking 0.8 mile back to the trailhead.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.