Maple Falls and Five Finger Falls - Route I
18.3 miles     2000 ft
2 Jan 2011

An awesome redwood hike to both Maple Falls and Five Finger Falls.

Location: Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Elevation Profile

Notes: Elevation profile is only for the return route. My GPS watch did not record the ascent to the falls.

Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Brochure: Official Trail Map with details of both Forest of Nisene Marks and Soquel Demonstration Forest. The area close to Entrance Station in Forest of Nisene Marks is shown enlarged. Trail lengths are missing in this map.

» PeasePress Map: Trails of Santa Cruz: Excellent quality map showing various parks in the Santa Cruz area.


To Maple Falls (4.0 miles): From George's Picnic Area, go along Aptos Creek Fire Road (0.4 + 0.7 + 0.2 miles) → left on Loma Prieta (0.6 + 0.1 miles) → right on Bridge Creek Trail to Maple Falls (1.3 + 0.7 miles).

To Aptos Creek Fire Road (2.6 miles): From Maple Falls, retrace your steps back along the unnamed trail that meanders all along Bridge Creek (0.7 miles) to reach Bridge Creek Historic Site. Continue along Bridge Creek Trail (1.3 miles) to reach a junction with Loma Prieta Grade. Continue along Loma Prieta Grade (0.6 miles) to reach a junction with Aptos Creek Fire Road.

To Five Finger Falls (5.2 miles): Turn left on Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.3 miles) to a location called 'Bottom of Incline' (see trail map). Turn right on Aptos Creek Trail (3.0 miles) to junction with Big Slide Trail. Continue along Aptos Creek Trail (0.9 miles) to reach Five Finger Falls.

To George's Picnic Area (6.5 miles): From Five Finger Falls, retrace your steps along Aptos Creek Trail (0.9 miles) to junction with Big Slide Trail. Continue along Aptos Creek Trail (3.0 miles) to return to 'Bottom of Slide'. Turn left on Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.3 miles) to junction with Loma Prieta. Continue along Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.3 miles) to return to George's Picnic Area.


  • A short section of Aptos Creek Fire Road may be replaced by Porter Trail (see trail map). Porter Trail requires a couple of creek crossings without bridges. Going north, the first crossing is very close to Aptos Creek Fire Road. If it looks challenging, you may retrace your steps back to Aptos Creek Fire Road and walk along the fire road, bypassing Porter Trail (see trail map for details).
  • Bridge Creek Trail is absolutely gorgeous in winters, after rains. It is lush green with vegetation.
  • The trail that meanders along Bridge Creek to reach Maple Falls has no bridges. It switches banks about 10 to 12 times, making it a fun hike when the creek is flowing with water! You are bound to get wet. At some of the crossings, we had to use our hands to cross the creek. The water level was never over 12 inches in January 2011.
  • Aptos Creek Fire Road is wide fire road, shaded throughout. Even though this is a fire road, the abundance of tall trees all along make it no less pleasant than single track trails.
  • In December 2009, Big Slide Trail and Aptos Creek Trail were clear but looked unmaintained. We felt we were in wilderness.

Full photo album — 02 January 2011

Photos are from a different hike with similar landscape: Maple Falls - Route I.

Location: Along Aptos Creek Road, about one mile north of intersection of Aptos Creek Road and Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA. Near 'Steel Bridge' and 'Winter Gate' in the official map. . No street address. Parking area is not visible in Google Maps.

Directions: From Highway 17 going south, go along CA-1 South. After about six miles, take Exit 435 for State Park Drive towards Aptos. Soon after the exit, turn left onto State Park Drive. After 0.3 miles, take the second right onto Soquel Drive. In half a mile, you will reach the intersection of Soquel Drive and Aptos Creek Road in Aptos, CA. Turn left onto Aptos Creek Road and drive about a mile to reach the Park Entrance kiosk where you would have to pay entrance fees. Drive another mile to reach George's Picnic Area, which is near 'Steel Bridge' and 'Winter Gate' in the official map.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: $8 per vehicle (last visited: March 2014)

Capacity: About 15 cars

Latitude: 36.997309     Longitude: -121.906507

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