The beauty of falling water
Uvas Canyon County Park
After months of heavy rains, you might think we saw enough falling water. A walk along the Waterfall Loop Nature Trail in Uvas Canyon may change your mind. In fact, when I saw this foamy, frothy, fizzy stream, I laughed out loud.
The stream flew downhill, sparkling in the sunlight as it bubbled over giant green rocks. And it wasn’t a single waterfall. A continuous cascade of luminous water flowed downhill more than 500 feet for almost a mile.
As the water tumbles down, it creates a shady, moist, riparian environment. The “new” water supports ancient plants, mildew, moss, fungus, and mushrooms. Then come the ferns, the first plants with stems and leaves. Above are maples, blackberries, sycamores, alders, firs, oaks, and the tallest, oldest trees in the world—coast redwoods. In the winter, you may see large mats of ladybugs. (These are good guys, so try not to step on them.)
Look around. You will see a lot of nature in a short one-mile loop. To help identify what you are seeing, pick up a Waterfall Loop Nature Trail Guide at the trail head, or print one from the website (sccgov.org)
Behind the Uvas Canyon parking lot, walk up a stairway to the picnic area. When you reach the paved park road, bear right. In a short distance, you’ll see a sign for the Waterfall Loop Trail. You will soon reach the top of your first waterfall, Granuja Falls. You can enjoy the view from the top or walk down a short flight of rough stairs to get an intimate view at the base.
Back on the road, stay right on the Waterfall Loop. After crossing a bridge, you’ll see a footpath that goes down to the creek. Check the water level. If it is too high to cross, you won’t be able to complete the loop. Either way, I suggest that you stay on the road and continue along the north side of the creek. If you watch for signs, you’ll see a series of falls: Little Falls, Black Rock Falls, Basin Falls, and Upper Falls. You’ll also see an abandoned dam that creates its own waterfall.
When you reach Myrtle Flat at 0.8 miles, you can turn back to cross a bridge to the single-track trail on the south side of the creek. This trail is closer to the water, giving you another perspective. When you reach the ford at the east end of the loop, you can choose to get your feet wet, or double back to the north side of the creek. (A tourist couple warned me that I couldn’t cross, but, even after heavy February and March rains, I only got my boots wet.)
To see other falls not on the loop, hike about 1/10 mile to the Lower Falls where Swanson Creek meets Uvas Creek, or take the Alex Canyon Trail to Triple Falls, one steep mile above the Black Oak Picnic Grounds.
For a longer, more strenuous walk, you can hike up to Knibb’s Knob and Summit Road. It’s only a mile and a half to the top, but you climb over 1800 feet in elevation. On the way, you’ll see some nice views but heavy brush blocks the view from Knibb’s Knob. (For Knob information at www.mnn.net, click on Trails and other explorations, then on Knibb’s Knob.)
To get to the main entrance of Uvas Canyon, take the dangerous Highway 17 to Highway 85 south to Almaden Expressway. Take Almaden Expressway to the end, turn right on Harry, then turn left after a short block to McKean. Follow McKean past Calero Reservoir until the road becomes Uvas. Turn right on Croy Road. Follow Croy through the old Swedish resort of Sveadal on a narrow road to the park entrance. The Sveadal section is relatively short but very rough, even by mountain standards. The park is at the end of the road. For GPS directions, the park address is Uvas Canyon County Park, 8515 Croy Road, in Morgan Hill.
Campsites, picnic facilities, and a public bathroom are available. Dogs are not welcome. No reservations or parking fees are necessary on weekdays, but due to heavy usage, prepaid parking reservations ($6 per vehicle) are required on weekends and holidays at least through June. To make a reservation, call 1-408-355-2201, or visit www.gooutsideandplay.org. No day-use vehicle passes are sold at the kiosk.
Yes, you can see taller waterfalls at Big Basin or Yosemite, but Uvas is closer with more intimate views. It’s worth the drive, especially after winter rains.