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Hike to the Garden of Eden Swimming Hole

Felton, California

based on 11 reviews



1.09 miles

Elevation Gain

259 ft

Route Type



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This is your new favorite spot for the times when you need a swim in Santa Cruz but don't feel like sporting a wetsuit. From the parking area, the river is a quick (but steep!) hike in. The hike is 10-15 minutes to the water. Add as much time as you want to rinse in the cool San Lorenzo waters.

Are the beaches of Santa Cruz too cold to swim in? Of course they are. But this swimming hole has your back. The Bay Area isn't blessed with a bounty of freely accessible, dog-friendly swimming holes. The Garden of Eden, just off Route 9 in the Henry Cowell Redwoods is one of them.

Park on the side of the road (arrive early to guarantee yourself a spot) and hike down the quick, steep trail to the water. The swimming hole known as "Garden of Eden" is clearly marked.

Looking for a more quiet adventure? Skip this more crowded spot and continue along to find your own cool, watery mecca. Feel free to bring your dog, but make sure Fido isn't scared of a little scramble...the descent isn't for the faint of heart.

Unfortunately dogs are NOT permitted.

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Hike to the Garden of Eden Swimming Hole Reviews

Would not stop here again. There are other hikes nearby in Henry Cowell that are amazing. Would recommend checking those out instead.

This could be a beautiful place as the name makes you think, but there are so many people, and since there are no trash cans (and even if there were) people leave beer cans and other trash lying around. This is not ok.

Like Cin Dy, I want to warn all visitors to the Garden of Eden that dogs are strictly prohibited and the rangers will write tickets. The place is stunningly beautiful, and I hope all who visit will do their best to keep it that way. I live about a mile from the park and serve as a volunteer. Part of my work is picking up trash at Garden of Eden. Please, if you pack it in, pack it out. The state park does not provide any trash service here, so any trash left behind must be picked up by volunteers or the rangers. If you visit, consider bringing a trash bag and helping to haul out trash left by others. Lately, I've had to spend hours cleaning graffiti from rocks and trees. If you believe that spray painting your tag or some other design will impress other visitors, you are wrong. And if you are caught by the rangers defacing anything in the state parks, you will be cited. And if you have a warrant, they'll take you to jail. State park rangers have the same authority as county sheriffs. So think twice before carving your initials in a tree or painting your tag on a rock. And, again, I want to remind everyone that dogs are NOT allowed at Garden of Eden. There are many reasons for this rule (punishable by a $300-500 dollar ticket if the rangers catch you), but let me offer the one most people don't consider: Dogs are predators, of course, and their paws, when they come in contact with dirt or sand, leave a strong scent that tells many of our native animals to stay away. Many species native to the park can pick up the scent of dogs days or even weeks after they are gone, so even if you clean up after your dog defecates, you are likely preventing wildlife from traveling to water or needed food sources. Garden of Eden used to be a secret place that only locals knew about, and many wish we could return to the old days when San Lorenzo Valley folks like me had the place to ourselves. But that's not going to happen. Social media has spread the word, and thousands of visitors from "over the hill" come to enjoy the Garden. The state parks are public and open to all, but please don't come here thinking this is great place to drink beer, smoke weed, and party. It's just not set up for that. There are no bathrooms, no trash cans. It's remote and if accidents happen (most often because some idiot gets drunk and cracks his head on a rock), it's very expensive to send emergency crews. If you need to hauled out, it's going to cost you about $30,000. Not worth it. On summer weekends, the Garden gets very crowded, but if we all respect each other (no publicly heard music, no smoking of anything, no fires-duh!) and follow all the rules, this beautiful but fragile ecosystem will remain a jewel on the central coast. GoE is not a party place. It's peaceful place for reflection, respect, and reverence.

Can get crowded on weekends with people enjoying themselves, but still a wonderful spot that involves an adventure to reach.

In reference to the article, this is NOT a dog friendly area. In fact, you can get cited for having your dog down there. Pack your trash out! If you can carry it down there when it's full, you can carry it back to your car empty. There is NO TRASH SERVICE there. No glass allowed. No alcohol allowed. Jumping from rocks NOT allowed. FYI, a medivac helicopter out of there costs about $30,000 & it happens more than you would think. Someone died there last year. Be careful. Don't be an asshole.

Easy hike, but gets very crowded on nice days. The day I went had lots of dooshy people. I'd skip the most popular hole and hike further upriver to find someplace quieter. This is by no means an unknown swimming hole: it's mobbed most weekend days. Can be relaxing but prepare for blasting music and loud drunk people unless you hike far away from the popular spot.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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