This easy hike wanders through lush vegetation along the San Lorenzo River's edge.
As you walk near the river, look for great blue heron and steelhead trout. You're also sure to see Steller's jays, which are prevalent throughout the park.
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation change: flat
Hiking time: 1 hour
Trail surface: Packed dirt
Best Season: Year round
Managing agency: California Department of Parks and Recreation
Parking lot location: Click here for directions
Overview: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is famous for its majestic old-growth redwood trees, which inspired early conservation efforts at the beginning of the 20th century. Beyond the redwoods, the park contains a variety of diverse habitats and this hike takes you along the banks of the San Lorenzo River, into one of the park’s riparian area.
From the parking lot, head south on Pipeline Road. If you’re traveling with dogs or on a bike, stay on the dirt road until you reach Eagle Creek, and then retrace your steps to return (dogs and bikes are not allowed on the River Trail). By foot, you have the option to veer right onto River Trail, which runs parallel to the road and will get you closer to the water. Follow River Trail along the San Lorenzo River until you reach Cable Car Beach (great spot to picnic). Turn around and take River Trail all the way back to the parking area.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park began with an illegal photograph. In 1900, Andrew P. Hill photographed “The Giant” redwood tree in the Welch Big Trees Grove. When the owner of the land angrily claimed that Hill didn’t have the right to the photos, Hill was inspired to talk to journalist Josephine Clifford McCrackin about how important it was that there be a public park where the trees belonged to everyone. This spurred the “save the redwoods” movement, which eventually led to the founding of the Sempervirens Fund and the founding of both the California Redwoods Park (now Big Basin Redwoods State Park) in 1902 and the Big Trees Grove resort on the land that is now Henry Cowell State Park.
Husband and wife William and Jennie Jeter, along with their friend Joseph Welch Jr. worked to create the Santa Cruz County Big Trees Park in 1930. The County managed the park for over 20 years, and in 1954 it became part of a new state park when Samuel Cowell donated 1,600 neighboring acres, and the park was named after Cowell’s father Henry. Later, in 1972, the Cowell Family Foundation deeded the Fall Creek Unit to the State, and since then 800 additional acres have been added with the help of the Save the Redwoods League.