Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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|Basin Falls. Photo by C.G.|
Uvas Canyon County Park is such an easy and rewarding hike that it’s shocking the trails aren’t more crowded. Here are five waterfalls peppered along 3.5 miles of well-maintained moderate trails, and you barely bump into two dozen hikers – dogs included – in a couple hours? What’s wrong with Uvas Canyon? Oh, I know. It’s in Morgan Hill, 45 minutes southwest of San Jose at the end of a windy road. Had Uvas Canyon been anchored along the sides of Mt Tamalpais, Cataract Falls and Carson Falls would have taken the back seat no contest. Its remote location actually saves Uvas Canyon from becoming a hiking freeway and it’s all for the best. Now let’s pray for some more rain because it’s one of the nicest quintets of waterfalls in the Bay Area.
|Swanson Creek. Photo by C.G.|
Getting to Uvas Canyon is a trek but the scenic road and the last mile make it worth your fuel. From 101, you exit at Bailey Avenue, go west for 3.2 miles, turn left at McKean Road, go 2.4 miles, continue on Uvas Road for 3.7 miles, and turn right at Croy Road. That’s the short story. Now go 3.4 miles to the park and slow down. The last mile of the road to the park winds through Sveadal, a resort of the Swedish American Patriotic League. Kids play around here, which explains the 10mph speed limit.As you drive by slowly slowly, note the Swedish themed bungalows and cabins names in -son (Gustafson, Ericksson…). It’s official, you’re in Sweden! If you visit for the Midsummer festival (June 18 in 2011), hike around the resort to find a troll redwood carving by Swedish sculptor Emil Janel. After Sveadal, you’re at the gate of Uvas Canyon County Park. Pay your fees and make yourself at home: boots, water bottle, snacks, ready-set-go.
|Lower Black Rock Falls.
Photo by C.G.
From the parking lot we decided to start with the waterfall loop. The waterfall loop is a one-miler that follows Swanson Creek upstream and passes three waterfalls. Surprisingly – given how hot this area gets during the summer – Swanson Creek is a year-round stream that trickles down the rock in small pools after the winter rains.
The first waterfall soon appeared on our right. It was right off the trail at the level of a footbridge. All we had to do was get our camera ready. The map didn’t show it but it is the lower tier of Black Rock Falls, the largest of the five waterfalls which totals 55 feet in heighth on three different tiers. We kept going. The kids (3 between 5 and 7 years) were totally hyper playing choo-choo train and they needed to burn off some steam on the trail. We let them run.
|Express your inner om in front of Upper Black Rock Falls.
Photo by C.G.
|Hula at Basin Falls. Photo by O.R.|
Back on the main trail, we hiked up another 0.1 mile to find Upper Falls and took a short spur to go see my favourite of them all, Basin Falls. It may not get high ratings from waterfall experts but for a mom, it gets five golden stars.
|Upper Falls. Photo by C.G.|
Upper Falls is the last waterfall on the waterfall loop at Uvas Canyon and falls in two opposing portions over 25 feet. Wider than the other falls, it is also surrounded by more open terrain and easier to approach from the trail.
|Contour Trail. Photo by C.G.|
To get there, we continued on the trail until it turned into Contour Trail, the aptly-named single file path that follows the contour of the canyon. Not recommended for people who suffer from any fear of heights. Steep drops ahead. Though that trail is 1.25 miles long, it felt a lot shorter because the kids used the elevation drops and sudden gains to run down and up and down and up. In fact we had to run after them twice because we couldn’t see them anymore. Given that the drops on the side were fairly impressive, none of the adults were completely comfortable letting the kids run loose.
|Hiking on Alec Canyon Trail. Photo by Frog Mom|
As much as we had been hiking under dense tree cover so far, Alex Canyon Trail was a pleasant change of scenery, an open trail with scenic views on the redwood mountains. There were even two benches in front of the valleys to quietly reap the visual rewards of the stroll. Day was falling when we got to the benches so we simply walked on.
|Triple Falls. Photo by Frog Mom|
Two of us ran ahead to snap a shot of the falls (and check that they were where the map said they were) and we all retraced our steps, now headed to the parking lot and warm comfort of the car.
|The cherry on the cake. Photo by Frog Mom|