Henry Cowell Redwoods is centered around a 40-acre old-growth redwood grove. South of the grove is a larger area of second-growth parkland situated along the San Lorenzo River, with hiking trails and a state-owned campground. To the north is the Fall Creek unit, another sizable park dominated by second-growth redwoods. Also in the area is a huge Christian conference center and numerous privately-owned, redwood-themed campgrounds and resorts, not to mention the immensely popular Roaring Camp Railroad, which comes complete with a kitschy Old West-themed visitor center and steam train rides through the redwoods. All these facilities are here, at least in part, because of those few acres of old-growth redwood.
The park is only eight miles from Santa Cruz, and the various attractions are popular, but not unpleasantly so. In the summer, the park is much cooler than most other places in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the San Lorenzo River in particular is a popular family retreat. Near the old growth grove is one of the nicer gift shops to be found in a state park, as well as ample pay parking.
** The Redwood Grove Loop Trail (0.8 mile)
A popular alluvial-flat grove in which big redwoods are mixed with a dense layer of smaller hardwood trees.
*** Four Crossings (6.6 miles)
A hilly hike through attractive woodland with four fords of the San Lorenzo River. This route should only be attempted in late summer or early fall, when the river is at its lowest. At other times of year the river is too high to be crossed.
* The Truck Trail and Fall Creek (7.0 miles)
The Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell State Park, just north of the main park, consists entirely of dense second-growth redwood forest. This loop climbs a ridge through pleasant forest and descends along lively Fall Creek. The lower portion of Fall Creek is particularly lush and attractive.
* Big Ben and Fall Creek (8.2 miles)
This loop is similar to the Truck Trail loop but starts with a more strenuous climb on the south side of Fall Creek.
** Graham Hill Campground
Henry Cowell’s campground isn’t actually in the redwoods, but in a hilltop oak grove about a mile away. It’s across the street from a suburb of Santa Cruz and gets some traffic noise.
© 2006, 2012 David Baselt