Here’s an idea: Go to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton, near Santa Cruz, and not do the paved 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Loop Trail.
Don’t worry, on this Weekend hike, you’ll still see some redwoods, but also follow the River Trail for so much more. It’s a 5.5-mile lollipop-style loop that rambles through the riparian lushness surrounding the San Lorenzo waters, climbs to the highest point in the park (an 800-foot ascent) and plunges you down into a lovely gorge with footbridges over gurgling Eagle Creek before leading you back to the riverside.
And it’s not as if you’re going to be completely deprived of redwood watching on the trek that includes the River, Eagle Creek, Pine, Powder Mill and Rincon trails. There are select specimens you’ll encounter along the way, including some felled redwoods. But it’s time to give some other flora its star turn.
Trees you’ll see, with varying degrees of regularity: maple, tanoak, live oak, bay, hazelnut, madrone, ponderosa pine, knobcone pine, sycamore and even a Douglas fir or two. Foliage, depending on the season, includes: manzanita, chaparral, redwood sorrel, yerba buena, yerba santa, monkeyflower, lupine, huckleberry, chinquapin.
It’s a lot to ogle and enjoy, even if you couldn’t tell poppy from chamise, as you walk along on trails that are just as diverse in terms of topography.
Weekend Hike: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton
Distance: 5.5 miles
Directions to Trailhead: From Sacramento, Take Interstate 80 to I-680 over the Benicia Bridge and through Contra Costa. After the Sunol Grade, turn right on the Mission Boulevard exit (the second Mission exit; look for I-880 sign). Take Mission to I-880, which turns into Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Take the Mount Hermon Road exit. Go right on Graham Hill Road, then a quick left on Highway 9. The entrance to the park will be on the left. Follow road to the main parking lot.
Route: From the sign saying “To River Trail” to the right of the bathrooms and gift shop, follow the River Trail about a mile under the train trestle. Veer left, uphill on the signed Eagle Creek Trail. Follow Eagle Creek a mile and go right on the Pine Trail for 0.6 of a mile. Cross the fire road at the observation deck and continue down on the Pine Trail 0.4 miles to the Powder Mill Fire Road, where you’ll go right. After 0.3 of a mile, turn right at a T-junction onto Pipeline Road (paved). Go a mile and make a left onto the dirt Rincon Fire Road. Travel 0.3 of a mile and veer right back onto the River Trail. Go about a mile back to the trailhead.
Toilets: At trailhead
Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis.