Big Rock Hole Swimming Hole

Big Rock Swimming Hole


From the issue Dip In!

Holey Experience

In Santa Cruz the swimming holes are as abundant as the redwoods. You've just gotta know where to go. Hint: head for the redwoods down by the river. San Lorenzo River, that is. Here, short hiking trails lead to a few good options, including off-the-beaten-path Big Rock Hole tucked deep inside Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. This hidden basin features—surprise!—a big rock, plus a tempting rope swing (just make sure there's enough water before you go showing off your Tarzan skills). Shrouded and shaded by big-leaf maples and coast redwood giants, this private hideaway also has a small sand beach, ideal for kicking back and shamelessly being a slug with a book and some bonbons. To get there, the simplest approach involves a moderately steep half-mile hike downhill, forging the riverbed, and crossing a redwood barrier to discover the basin on the other side. If you’re looking to tack on some miles, you can also reach Big Rock Hole from the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park parking lot via a beefier 7- to 8-mile (round-trip) hike. Take a look at this map to craft your route. Despite popular myth, rangers warn that wearing your birthday suit at this lagoon is not an option, so don't get cheeky; keep the loincloths on for any Tarzan and Jane exploits. Ahahahaahahhhhhhhh!

For the easiest access to Big Rock Hole, pull out along Hwy. 9 at the Rincon Parking Lot, a free inlet on the side of the road about 3 miles south of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park main entrance. Then hike down the Rincon Road Trail about a half-mile to the San Lorenzo River. When you hit the bank, steer right past the "No Diving" sign, and cross the river. Continue on a footpath a few hundred yards downriver until you hit Big Rock Hole. Return the way you came. If you're hiking from the Visitors Center, paid parking is available for $10, located at 101 North Big Trees Rd. in Felton. No alcohol or dogs are permitted. Use the rope swing at your own risk.

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