West Ridge - Five Finger Falls - Route I
21.2 miles     3300 ft
14 Nov 2009
Summary

Awesome hike to West Ridge and Five Finger Falls.

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 Margaret's Bridge (7.0 miles): From George's Picnic Area, follow Aptos Creek Fire Road (0.4 miles) → left on West Ridge Trail (3.6 miles) → right on Ridge Connection Trail (0.4 miles) to junction with Big Stump Gap Trail. Continue along Ridge Connection Trail (0.5 miles) → right on Loma Prieta Grade (1.5 miles) to junction with Bridge Creek Trail. Turn right on Loma Prieta Grade (0.6 miles) to Aptos Creek Trail. Turn left and within a few steps, reach Margaret's Bridge, a large bridge over Aptos Creek.

To Five Finger Falls (7.7 miles): From Margaret's Bridge, follow Aptos Creek Fire Road (1.3 miles) to a location called 'Bottom of Incline' (see trail map). Continue along Aptos Creek Fire Road (3.3 miles) → right on White's Lagoon Road / Big Slide Trail (2.2 miles) to junction with Aptos Creek Trail. Turn left on 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 '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).

Notes:

  • A short section of Aptos Creek Fire Road may be substituted by Porter Trail (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).
  • 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.
  • West Ridge Trail is a nice single track hiking trail, shaded by tall trees. At some locations, the trail is particularly scenic, cutting through steep hilly slopes.
Photos

Full photo album — 14 November 2009

Photos are from a different hike with similar landscape: Five Finger Falls - Route II.
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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