Falls of the Wild

Hike to Maple Falls in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Over the creek and through the redwoods you’ll go, on this adventurous 9-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. This hike is loaded with charms, but the big riches come from viewing Maple Falls, a 30-foot stunner framed by, you guessed it, maple trees. It comes to life after rains. Just be sure to get an early start. It’s a long hike for short days. 

Two young hikers on the trail at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

The Forest of Nisense Marks State Park

Maple Falls in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

During the cooler months, the park’s Winter Gate is closed, so park at George’s Picnic Area. (When the gate is open, visitors can park at the Porter Family Picnic Area for a shorter, 6-mile hike.) From George’s, walk up the scenic Aptos Creek Fire Road, flanked by fern-covered cliffs and fields of apple-flavored wood sorrel.

Two women hikers on the trail for Maple Falls in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Hiker posing in front of Maple Falls at The Forest of Nisense Marks State Park

Just after the Porter Family Picnic Area, turn left onto the Loma Prieta Grade. This trail leads you beneath the shade of giants: 125-foot-tall redwood trees, some as old as 120 years. Many of these magnificent trees were planted in the early to mid-1900s in response to heavy logging in the area.

About a mile down the trail, hikers should be wary of false trails, and stay on the Loma Prieta Grade until the clearly marked Bridge Creek Trail, the final stretch to Maple Falls. Bridge Creek Trail is an adventurer’s delight, as it crosses the creek several times, leading hikers over bridges made of fallen logs and scattered boulders. Less than a half mile from the waterfall, keep an eye out for a short rock wall leading to the trail above, and be sure to maintain steady footing on the damp boulders.

Maple Falls in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

From here, a narrow, lush pathway leads hikers to their final destination: Maple Falls! Fed by seasonal rains, this waterfall only gets more spectacular with every storm. Take a seat next to the small plunge pool. Return the way you came.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In Episode 42 "Out Yule Go" Weekend Sherpa co-founders Brad and Holly talk with writer Heather Werner about highlights of her hike to Maple Falls. When's the best time to go? Listen to find out!

Bring a map. To reach the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, take Hwy. 17 south to Hwy. 1. Exit at State Park Dr. and turn left. Turn right on Soquel Dr., then left on Aptos Creek Rd. Follow Aptos Creek Rd. into the park. There is an $8 parking fee for the day. No dogs (with the exception of the Aptos Creek Fire Rd., which is dog-friendly).

Story and photos by Poe Casavant

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Berkeley's Backyard Waterfall

    Tucked among the hillside homes of North Berkeley is a winding stairway that leads to the “secret” entrance of a Narnia-like canyon with a 40-foot waterfall.

    View
  2. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike. The start of th

    View
  3. Falls of the Wild

    Through the redwoods you’ll go on this adventurous 9-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. This hike is loaded with charms, but the big riches come from viewing Maple Falls, a 30-foot stunner that comes to life after rains.

    View
  4. Hood's New Trail

    Tucked just on the edge of Sonoma Valley near Santa Rosa, Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve has a brand-new trail leading up to a brilliant picnic spot with a panorama of Sonoma Valley all the way out to the ocean.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Can You Keep a Secret?

    The Southern Oregon Coast's Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor between Gold Beach and Brookings has so many sights to see, it’s hard to know where to spend your time. We like this trio of suggestions because you can do them as a three-in-a-row jackpot of coastal wonders.

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Ojai There!

    If a substantive and super scenic bike ride is right in your wheelhouse, do the 30-mile (round-trip) Ventura-to-Ojai bike path that begins (and ends) near the Ventura shoreline, pit stopping in delightful Ojai for food and drinks.

    View
  4. Fountain to the Falls

    There are three ways to reach the lovely Monrovia Canyon Falls, but only one of them is worthy of being named a good challenge!

    View