Garden of Eden

An idyllic swimming hole on the San Lorenzo River.

by Molly Lautamo

NOTE: If you are not willing to pack your trash all the way back to your car, please do not come to the Garden of Eden.

SPLOOSH! A young man leaps off a rocky hillside, 10 feet down into a deep blue pool. Teenagers laugh and splash, using a large fallen branch as a float. College girls sunbathe on sandy shores, gossiping while reading magazines and textbooks, nonchalantly watching the boys from behind oversized sunglasses. An older woman sits serenely apart on a sun-warmed boulder across the water. The carefree days of summer reign here—the cool, blue-green waters and sandy beach nestled in a secret cove downslope from the railroad tracks feel removed from the stresses of daily life. Forget all your worries and lose track of time in what could be mistaken for the birthplace of Adam and Eve. You have arrived at the Garden of Eden.

This swimming hole can be hard to find, and many confuse it for its downstream neighbor, Big Rock Hole. When you truly arrive at the Garden of Eden, however, there’s no doubt you’ve found the right spot. It’s not hard to picture Adam and Eve bathing in these very waters (especially when you spot revelers sans fig leaves—this is a well-known clothing-optional spot).

The beach is long and wide, with plenty of room for sun worshipers and shade seekers alike. The pools are wide and deep enough to take a real swim and the long, curving beach offers plenty of waterside real estate for everyone.

A GREAT PLACE TO take a refreshing dip or lay out with a good book on the beach.

YOU SHOULD LEAVE BEHIND your pup, alcohol, cigarettes and BBQ fixins (no campfires allowed).

DEFINITELY BRING a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen and a picnic, ‘cause once you find this spot you won’t be leaving anytime soon.

YOUR MOM WOULD TELL YOU to pack your trash! If you lugged a six-pack down the hill (something Johnny Law frowns upon), then may we suggest you lug the empties back to your car. She would also tell you not to dive in head-first here, or to use the rope swing in a dry year, since there's a big rock not far beneath the surface.

HELPFUL HINTS There are no bathrooms or trash cans. You also can’t see the Garden of Eden from the railroad tracks, although you will pass a lot of lovely swimming holes on your way there. Don’t be tempted to just cut down the eroding hillside—you’re almost to the real Garden of Eden!

Directions From Santa Cruz, drive three miles up Highway 9 (past the South Entrance to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park) until you see the sign for the North Entrance to the park and a large dirt lot to your right with two green metal gates. A sign will say Ox Trail. (If you reach Toll House Resort, you’ve gone too far.) Enter through the southernmost gate and follow a wide trail down the hill. At the fork, follow the path to the right and continue another quarter mile or so until you reach the railroad tracks. Turn right at the tracks and follow them until you see a “No Campfire” and “No Alcoholic Beverages” sign on your left, another half mile. Follow the steep trail and sounds of laughter and splashing down to the river.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Big Rock Hole Swimming Hole
The Pogonip