Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a beautiful redwood forest near Santa Cruz that spans across 4650 acres of protected wilderness lands. A trip to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a great outdoor escape – all year long!
This State Park is home to some of the oldest and tallest redwood trees in the world that will simply leave you in awe. The top attractions of the park are located just a short drive from downtown Felton offering easy and convenient access to incredible trails and nature.
In this post, we cover 9 of the best things to see & do at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and many other helpful visitor tips. Let’s dive in!
How To Access Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Before we dive into the details, here are a few tips for parking:
- The main visitor area is located by the N Big Trees Park Rd Parking and it costs $10 to park here for the day.
- If you’re planning to purchase tickets for the Roaring Camp train, parking comes included and is located at the Roaring Camp parking lot.
- Many visitors park along Highway 9 and walk 1-2 miles into the park.
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground offers easy access to many park trails & has its own entrance off Graham Hill Road.
- You can also reach many of the hikes from the surrounding vacation homes, hotels, RV parks, and cabins if you’re planning to stay in one.
Where To Stay
Here are some of our favorite places to stay in Felton near Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
Fern River Resort
During our visit to Felton, we stayed at the Fern River Resort and we loved it! The Fern River Resort is nestled in a wooded property off Highway 9 that connects many historic logging towns and the surrounding Redwood State Parks.
This remote cabin resort is situated at the edge of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offering easy (and free) access to many of its trails. All around the property, you can enjoy stunning views of towering redwood trees, the San Lorenzo River, and lush, well-kept gardens.
The cabins at Fern River Resort come equipped with all the comforts of home and are filled with thoughtful touches for a cozy experience. There are several cabin options to choose from at Fern River Resort, for various budgets and traveling group sizes.
Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
If you’re looking to spend a few days RV camping in Felton, we’ve got the perfect place for you! The Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort is a great alternative to standard State Park camping that offers amazing amenities for its guests.
The Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort is in the prime location to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park as well as the main attractions of Felton. Here RV Resort guests can enjoy conveniences like a Clubhouse, firepits, bathrooms with hot showers, and full hook-up RV sites.
Take your pick from standard RV camping sites for $80 a day, or if you’re up for a splurge, the river view sites go for $125 a day. Each of the full hook-up sites includes water, sewer, electric, and cable.
Here are the top 9 things to do at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park!
1. Hike The Redwood Grove Loop Trail
If it’s your first time visiting Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, the Redwood Grove Loop Trail is a great hiking choice to familiarize yourself with the park and warm up your legs.
Starting from the N Big Trees Park Rd Parking you can head on a 0.8-mile long loop that passes through a 40-acre grove with some of the tallest and oldest redwood trees in California. This trail is short and flat making it a great option for families and little kids.
At the trailhead, you can stop and scan your phone for a QR code that will pull up an electronic guide of the trail highlights. Many of the trees on this loop are marked so you can easily follow the guide and learn more about Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park along the way.
As soon as you enter this rainforest you will feel the temperatures drop and sense the stillness of the redwoods all around. This is a very special old-growth forest with the original trees that were preserved in the 1800s instead of being logged. Some of the trees within this grove are over 300 feet tall and 2,000 years old.
Along the Redwood Grove Loop, you can marvel at giant trunks and towering trees that block most sunlight from entering this grove giving it an eerie feeling.
One of the largest trees within this loop is called the Giant with a noteworthy 270-foot height and 17-foot width. The Freemont Tree is another interesting tree that has a hollowed-out trunk where visitors can crawl through to explore the inside of the tree.
2. Roam Around The Roaring Camp
The Roaring Camp is a great place for a family outing. This is one of the top attractions in Felton where you can roam through a western-style town consisting of a train depot, general store, picnic areas, and other interesting historical buildings.
Here you can check out and peek inside a recreation of a Sheriff’s Office and a Print Shop that houses one of the few Linotypes still around. If hunger strikes, you can grab a hot dog or burger at the Food & Drink area and enjoy a relaxing lunch at one of the outdoor picnic-style tables.
One of the most noteworthy attractions of this charming town is the Roaring Camp Covered Bridge which serves as an entryway into the town. At 36 feet in length, this is the shortest covered bridge in the United States.
Roaring Camp is located right next to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park so you can combine a visit to both on the same day.
3. Ride A Historic Train
If you’re up for a fun adventure, taking the Roaring Camp Train through an old-growth redwood forest is one of the top things to do in the area! This train takes about an hour and travels across wooden train trestles up steep switchbacks to Bear Mountain and back. Going on this exciting ride is one of the best ways to experience parts of the redwood forests in Felton that are otherwise inaccessible.
Depending on the season, the train rides may run several times a day. We recommend booking tickets online ahead of time on the Roaring Camp Website to reserve the best time slots available. The train tickets currently cost $33 for adults and $24 for kids (plus $10 for mandatory parking).
The Roaring Camp’s Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad is a recreation of historic railway lines and trains that were used to haul logged trees out of the forests in the 1800s. The Train Depot is located at Roaring Camp where you can board the train for the trip.
During our visit, the train was operated by a tour guide and a gentleman who has been in charge of Roaring Camp train rides for nearly 50 years. During the tour, they were dishing out interesting facts about the trees, the train systems used here, and how this redwood grove was acquired for preservation.
4. Explore Wooden Railroad Trestles
If you have some extra time on your hands, after the Roaring Camp train ride you can walk over to the wooden train trestles to see them up close.
To get there you can take the trail that goes past the duck ponds and continue straight for about 10-15 minutes until you reach the trestles. It’s a pretty interesting location if you’ve never seen train trestles before. Visitors can explore the tracks up to the point where the wooden trestles start.
5. Stop By The Redwood Tree Display
Near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park visitor center, you can see a display with one of the oldest known coastal redwood trees. This tree is over 2200 years old and was eventually cut down in 1934.
At this exhibition, you can see the different tree rings and their age comparison in terms of modern-day events. A tree produces a new ring every year so you can figure out how old the tree is by counting its rings.
6. Hike To Cathedral Redwoods
The 4-mile-long out-and-back trail to Cathedral Redwoods is one of the least traveled trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park but it was one of our favorites just for that reason.
There are several routes that you can take to reach Cathedral Redwoods Grove. We started at the Redwood Grove Trail, then continued on the River Trail which connected with the Big Rock Hole Trail.
Before you head into any of the trails, at the Visitor Center you can check out a map of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and where the park highlights like the Cathedral Redwoods are located. We also used an offline map from the AllTrails hiking app to track our route as reception in these parts of the forest is pretty limited.
Most of this trail follows a meandering river surrounded by ancient redwoods that feels very calming and peaceful. On the way, you can stop by Cable Car Beach where you can easily access the river shore to cool down in the summer.
Be prepared for a bit of an uphill climb towards the end but soon after you will reach the towering Cathedral Redwoods grove. The redwoods in this grove are younger than their ancestors and have grown in a loop that looks like a perfect circle especially if you look up at the treetops.
7. Hike To Old Lime Kiln Ruins
The Lime Kiln Trail is an incredibly beautiful hike within the Fall Creek Unit that travels through a serene redwood forest to old overgrown industrial ruins. This is one of the most popular hikes that you can do at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and is just over 3 miles long out and back.
The Fall Creek to Lime Kilns Trail passes creeks, mossy river canyons, wooden bridges, and giant redwood groves. The main attraction here is the ruins of an old mining complex that operated in this forest between 1874-1919 and consists of historic lime kilns, a barrel mill, and other remains.
After the factory closed, the property slowly deteriorated. Now what remains of the complex is overgrown with bushes, moss, and trees as nature claims back the land.
If you want to extend the hike, the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offers over 20 miles of hiking trails through a second-growth forest that was once logged but has since regrown.
8. Camp At Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
If you enjoy camping, you’ll love staying at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground. This part of the park has its own separate entrance and easily accessible hiking trails off Graham Hill Rd.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground features 107 wooded campsites nestled amongst pine and oak trees providing plenty of shade and privacy. These campsites are quite large and come equipped with picnic-style tables, storage lockers, and grills for cooking or enjoying a firepit at night.
Campsites can be booked on Reserve California under Henry Cowell Redwoods SP.
9. Enjoy Views From The Redwoods Observation Deck
The Redwoods Observation Deck is the highest point in the park overlooking Monterey Bay and the surrounding mountain peaks. This Observation Deck is located near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground and can be easily reached via a 0.5-mile-long trail.
What sets this area apart from the rest of the park are the unique sandhills and the rare ecosystems that can be found here. The Observation Deck is situated 805 feet above sea level within a sandhills plant community that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
From the top of the deck, you might spot Acorn Woodpeckers creating holes in the surrounding trees for storing acorns in the winter or peep through the magnifying glass at the coastline in the distance. There are also several picnic-style tables that you can enjoy for a relaxing lunch break.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a wonderful destination in Central California that offers incredible hiking trails and the opportunity to walk amongst some of the tallest and oldest coastal redwoods.
Looking for more things to do around the Central Coast? Check out these posts next:
- 10 Top Rated Vacation Rentals & Hotels In Felton, California
- 15 Amazing Places To See Big Trees In California
- Visiting The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park Near Santa Cruz
- 12 Top Places To Stay In Santa Cruz For a Getaway To The Central Coast
- Visiting Portola Redwoods State Park On The Central Coast
- 15 Amazing Redwood Hikes Near Santa Cruz
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