Maple Falls and Five Finger Falls - Route VI
19.6 miles     2600 ft
2 Jan 2011
Summary

An awesome redwood hike to both Maple Falls and Five Finger Falls. The route also goes through Sand Point Overlook.

Location: Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Elevation Profile
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.

Route

To Maple Falls (3.9 miles): From George's Picnic Area, follow Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.3 miles) → left on Loma Prieta Grade (0.6 miles) → right on Bridge Creek Trail (1.3 miles) to Bridge Creek Historic Site. Continue along an unnamed trail leading to Maple Falls (0.7 miles).

To Sand Point Overlook (5.1 miles): From Maple Falls, retrace your steps along the unnamed trail (0.7 miles) to return to Bridge Creek Historic Site. Turn right onto Loma Prieta Grade (1.4 miles) → right on Ridge Connection Trail (0.5 miles) → right on Big Stump Gap Trail (0.4 miles) → right on West Ridge Trail (1.6 miles) → right on Hinckley Basin Fire Road (0.5 miles) to junction with Aptos Creek Fire Road. Continue along Aptos Creek Fire Road. Within a short distance, Sand Point Overlook is on the left.

To Five Finger Falls (4.1 miles): From Sand Point Overlook, continue going east along Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.0 miles) → turn left on White's Lagoon Road / Big Slide Trail (2.2 miles) → left on Aptos Creek Trail (0.9 miles) to 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 'Bottom of the Incline'. Turn left on Aptos Creek Fire Road and follow the road all the way to George's Picnic Area. Sequence of junctions along Aptos Creek Fire Road: (0.8 miles) Mill Pond Trail → (0.2 miles) Loma Prieta Mill Site → (0.3 miles) Loma Prieta Trail → (0.2 miles) Porter Trail on left → (0.5 miles) Porter Trail on left → George's Picnic Area (0.6 miles).

  • A short section of Aptos Creek Fire Road may be replaced by Porter Trail, which is a gorgeous single track hiking trail through forest (see trail map for its location). 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.
Photos

Full photo album — 02 January 2011

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

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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