River Trail at Henry Cowell


An easy to moderate two-mile trail along the San Lorenzo River in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

2 miles RT to Cable Car Beach; 1 hour 15 minutes; easy to moderate

Alive with bird calls and stunning in springtime, this gorgeous trail in Henry Cowell is heavily used by locals, who walk from home or park along Highway 9.

It starts at the park entrance, just off Highway 9, on the other side of the stone bridge spanning the San Lorenzo River. After just a few hundred yards the dog-friendly part of the trail ends (people with dogs can continue on the Meadow Trail, which starts at left), and you go through a gate to take the trail right along the river. It meanders beneath western sycamore and box-elder; in springtime look in moist shady areas for western bleeding hearts, pink nodding flowers that are reportedly toxic. You might hear woodpeckers in this section. You'll also see Forget-me-nots, an invasive but charming blue flower. Picnic areas, and restrooms (usually closed) are in the woods on your left.

Just past the second intersection with Meadow Trail, near a bend in the river, is a small beach with a rope swing, often in use on summer evenings. River Trail rises and passes a few very large redwoods. At this point you can get on paved Pipeline Road, where people walk dogs and, less commonly, ride bikes. But if you stay to the right you'll find River Trail continues along the water along a sandier, more sparsely vegetated section. Past the railroad trestle, this eventually gives way to shaded pathway riddled by roots and large steps, and then to a gorgeous riparian redwood section. Even though these are second-growth trees, they're big and healthy, and you get that primeval redwood feeling. If the footing isn't working for you, you can always climb back up to Pipeline Road.

Follow River Trail to Cable Car Beach and return the way you came. (Don't take the bridge across Eagle Creek; it will put you on the wrong side of everything.) For variation, return through the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. You can pick up Meadow Trail behind the Park Store by following the paved section to a hiking gate, then crossing another paved road and finding Meadow Trail ahead and to your left. This is a nice bird-intensive zone. After about a quarter-mile it meets back with River Trail near Highway 9.

Back to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park