Enjoy this park's dense redwood forest, clear creeks, deep canyons and spectacular waterfall.
Fossilized seashells can be found in the exposed creekbeds of Aptos and Bridge creeks, a reminder that 3 to 5 millions of years ago this area was covered by an inland sea.
Distance: 7.7 miles
Elevation change: 850 feet
Hiking time: 6-8 hours
Trail surface: Packed dirt
Best Season: All year, but spring is the best time to see the waterfalls
Managing agency: California State Parks
Parking lot location: Click here for directions
Overview: This hike takes you through dense redwood forest along clear, cool creeks. There are a few bridges, but to reach the falls you’ll have to cross the creek by hopping over rocks or getting your feet wet. The trail can be muddy and slippery in winter, so tread carefully, especially as you approach the waterfall.
From the park entrance, continue driving on the dirt road to the Porter Family Picnic Area, and park there. The trailhead starts a few yards beyond the locked gate. From there, follow the Loma Prieta Grade Trail. Continue onto the Bridge Creek Trail in about .5 miles. Maple Falls is located at the end of the Bridge Creek Trail. From there, retrace your steps to return to the trailhead.
In the winter, there may be a locked gate on the Aptos Creek Fire road. If you come during this time, leave your car at the Steel Bridge parking area and walk approximately one mile to the Porter Family Picnic Area. This will add a total of two miles to your hike.
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is named for Nisene Marks, the mother of a farming family from Salinas who purchased 9,700 acres in the hopes of finding oil below the ground. Their efforts to find oil a failure, the family donated the land to the state of California in 1963. California State Parks eventually expanded the area to its current 10,063 acre size.
Most of the land that the park occupies was once clear cut for logging, and as you walk through the park, you can still see evidence of logging operations, mills, and trestles. The Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the Bay Area on October 17, 1989 was centered here. A hike to the location of the epicenter is one of the most popular trails within the park.