Hike to Limestone Kilns and Big Ben Redwood

San Francisco Fall Creek

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Explore abandoned 19th-20th century limestone kilns. This hike leads you through lush forests and old growth Redwood.

Henry Cowell Redwood State Park is a super easy destination to get to from Santa Cruz, but the seclusion of the Fall Creek Unit makes this a big bang for buck hike. This hike will take you to Big Ben, a medium sized old growth Redwood, and the abandoned Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Company Kilns where much of the lime used to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake was produced.

To find the Fall Creek Trailhead, take Hwy 9 north about 7 miles and look for the sign for Henry Cowell State Park. Pull in here if you want to pick up a trail map (always a good idea) otherwise continue about a half mile, turn left at Felton Rd, drive another half mile and keep a sharp eye out for the Fall Creek sign. Park in the usually empty lot and take the steep, 1/4 mile Bennet Creek Trail down to a large trail map and the Fall Creek Trailhead.

From here, head left on the Fall Creek Trail, which begins as a relatively wide and flat trail. After about a mile you'll come to a fork in the road - here are the options:

Left is the Kiln trail which takes you on a tough, half mile hike/scramble to the abandoned limestone kilns. From there you can retrace and continue on the Fall Creek Trail or continue up the Kiln trail which leads to the Lost Empire Trail junction.

Right will continue on Fall Creek Trail, leading you above the kilns. You'll still have the option to dip down to the kilns from above and retrace back to the main trail. This option is a good mile longer, but not as strenuous.

Whichever way you choose, you'll eventually be lead to the junction of Fall Creek Trail and Lost Empire Trail. Head left on Lost Empire trail until you reach Big Ben, a good spot to take a break and refuel before making the return trip down. Follow the Big Ben Trail right off of Lost Empire and after a mile or so you will reach Fall Creek Trail again. Make a right turn and follow the trail all the way back to Bennet Creek Trail and the parking lot.

This map is very useful in planning ahead for your hike.

Photos: Wayne Hsieh, Randy Stiefer, Sarah Murray, Fogcat5

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes - water proof if hiking in winter!
  • Layers
  • Water
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Activities:

Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1500 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Easy Parking
Scenic

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How to Get There

4 months ago

Great hike, don't go after lots of rain!

Best hike ever!! Went after some pretty heavy rainfall, which wasn't the smartest on my part. The 4 of the bridges were washed out, but I still managed to find a way either through the water or over a fallen tree or up and over the hill. It was an adventure. I would totally do it again!! Loved this hike, possibly my favorite so far <3

4 months ago

5 months ago

Beautiful Hike!

Super beautiful hike - not too crowded on a Sunday morning and plenty of parking. Directions in the description lead you right there. Be aware that recent storms have washed away some of the bridges and fallen trees block the path in places. Glad I had my waterproof shoes to cross the streams and climb over trees. Otherwise a beautiful hike that wasn't too strenuous with lots of amazing scenery!

5 months ago

6 months ago

Close To Me And Love It

I'm lucky to live so close to this Henry Cowell State Park. Fall Creek is one of my favorites. Especially like visiting the koi pond.

6 months ago

7 months ago

So Beautiful

First off, I have to agree with a previous review and encourage you to follow the description for directions and not maps. Maps will lead you to Krazy Acre Ln but you'll see the sign for the parking lot long before you hit Krazy Acre. The first half of the hike (to the limestone) I'd rate beginner to intermediate. It was relatively easy. There are a few small forks in the road but I just always hung left and ended up at the limestone kiln. After that the trail up (and I do mean UP) to Big Ben is definitely a more advanced hike. Pretty steep for about 2 miles. Once you summit, the hike back is one of the most beautiful I've ever done. Lush trees,flowing rivers. It's breathtaking (and downhill.) As difficult as some of this hike was, it was totally worth it.

7 months ago

about 1 year ago

Loved It

It's a great place. I just got a little lost when I was using the gps. Then I read the directions on how to get there on the description and found the place.

about 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Awesome Place For Hiking

Great hiking area, lots of variations for trail loops so you can go whatever distance you want. Nice and cool during the summer. Great place for photos! The kilns were also very interesting. 10/10

over 1 year ago

about 2 years ago

A great place for a day hike. Plenty of trails to loop together to make a long trek in the redwoods. Hills and streams keep your feet and mind focused on the surroundings.

about 2 years ago

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