Canyon of the Grapes: Uvas Canyon County Park

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I’ll call this…a waterfall

Uvas Canyon is a rather small park located on the East side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s also one of the bast places in the area to get your waterfall fix. With 7 miles of trails you can cover every inch of trail on your visit and this is our attempt to do so. As you head down Croy Road to get to the park, you’ll drive through Svedal. This is a private resort owned by the Swedish American Patriotic League. As the County Park Pamphlet states “please respect their privacy and drive slowly”, there are kids playing in the area. Be prepared to pay an $6 (at the time of our visit) day use fee. The machine takes cash and cards, though the latter can often be unreliable.

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Watch out for Poison Oak!

Even though we didn’t on this visit, I recommend you start early. As with any hike, this will maximize your chances of wildlife sightings and you’ll be able to avoid the crowds. This may be especially important on the Waterfall Loop, the park’s main attraction, as you’ll be able to take pictures without waiting for those disregarding the “sensitive habitat” signs and scrambling on the falls to get out of your shot.

There are a number of falls located along a half mile stretch of trail and so the best time to visit is during the wet season. Visiting when it’s really wet you might even see salamanders and newts. Start in the parking lot near the entrance and head down the Waterfall Loop Road. In about 0.2 miles you’ll want to make a left onto the Waterfall Loop Trail. This gives you a better vantage point along the creek while heading right below and to the South of the road. On our visit, the signposts for this turnoff seemed to have been removed and the bridge crossing the creek was also taken down to protect it from the heavier waterflow. While I imagine when the water level is actually high, you may not be able to cross without getting your feet wet, but otherwise the crossing consists of stepping over four or five boulders.

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Cherry blossoms? Whatever they are, they’re beautiful

After about 0.3 miles you’ll re-join the fire road and you can take a short spur trail to view the Black Rock Falls. Backtrack to the road and continue West, making a right at the junction with Knobcone Trail. This 0.4 mile trail will take you up about 400 feet to Knobcone Point. The view from here is nothing to write home about as the area is surrounded by trees, but it’s a nice place to take a short break and seems to receive very few visitors. This is probably because the trail is marked as “steep” on the map.

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Beeeeeee!

Descending back to the road you can take the chance to view the Upper Falls and then take the short spur to Basin Falls. Continue on the Contour Trail. At this point, you can tuck your worries about crowds away. This trail winds it’s way back towards the parking lot over a bit more than 1.5 miles through forest, including some nice Manzanita groves.

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The immortalized notion: “SG + RS = Assholes”

At the next junction, make a right on Alec Canyon Trail and follow that for a half a mile to the next junction. Turn right and take the spur toward Triple Falls and take a moment to gaze at it from the observation platform before returning back to the main trail. Finish off the remaining 0.3 miles heading towards the old logging camp. While there’s no trace of the camp, located somewhere to the West, this is another quiet place to relax, rehydrate, and eat a snack.

Return back to the paved park road by following the Alec Canyon Trail to its other end. You will want to make a left on the road and follow it North towards the Upper Bench Youth Camp. Walk through the campsite and walk through the gate marking the start of the Kinbbs Knob Trail. This fire road is rather steep. I recommend shoes or boots with good traction. The trail starts off in the shade of the forest but in less then a mile the canopy vanishes. The steep grade and the heat will make you thirsty but the views of the forested canyon below are well worth it. There are plenty of trees along the way which provide shaded spots to catch your breath.

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Enjoying the shady walk

After 1.6 miles you’ll come to a junction and taking a right will take you through Pine forest 0.2 miles up the Knob Trail to Knibbs Knob at 2694 feet. Again, the view here is non-existent, but you can take in the peace and quiet. Return to the Knibbs Knob Trail and if so inclined, you can continue up the steep trail (the grade here is not as bad) 0.4 miles to the park boundary. The boundary takes you to Summit Road. A right on this road would take you towards Loma Prieta, the high point of Santa Clara County. Hopefully we’ll take a trek up to the peak in a future blog.

Though at some point it becomes a private road and you’ll be walking past many residences, the locals seem not to mind hikers as long as they don’t look like they’re up to no good or causing a ruckus. If you decide to walk down the road, please be respectful, as their attitudes can change.

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Spring colors

When you’ve had enough, head back down the Knibbs Knob Trail. Crossing the bridge you can take the stairs down and hike back along Swanson Creek. Unfortunately, the trail was closed due to construction on our visit.

While the waterfalls are nice, I think that the Knibbs Knob trail is the highlight of the park because it is challenging due to its grade and exposure and offers the best views.

Happy hiking and please remember, don’t litter. Not only does garbage detract from the natural beauty of the park for those that visit after you, but it is also bad for the local wildlife. Even something like an orange peel can take years to fully decompose.

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