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California Trails

Santa Cruz, CA: Fall Creek to Lime Kilns

Hidden deep inside the Santa Cruz Mountains, this 2.4-mile out-and-back wanders through old-growth forests and past meandering creeks to century-old limestone kilns.

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From the dirt lot, begin descending the Bennett Creek Trail to Fall Creek. Quickly lose the sounds of cars traveling on Empire Grade and become enveloped in a thick forest of old-growth redwoods.
In just over half mile, veer left and follow Fall Creek up the ravine on a wide, well-traveled path. At the bridge, veer left again, and begin a gradual ascent up a steep, narrow ravine (zigzagging over fallen trees and twisted roots) to the Lime Kilns. Covered in hanging moss, the kilns look like short, stone-built tunnels. In the 1800s, Henry Cowell (for whom the forest is named) made a fortune quarrying limestone in this area. After exploring, retrace steps back to the Bennett Creek Trailhead.
-Mapped by Tim Shisler


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 1.9



Location: 37.0496674, -122.0831528

From the parking lot, begin hiking on the Bennett Creek Trail. The trail quickly drops down the hillside under a thick canopy of Redwood trees to Fall Creek.


Location: 37.0512352, -122.0854034

Turn left @ the T-junction toward the limestone kilns. The trail parallels Fall Creek on the right and begins a slow, steady ascent up the valley.


Location: 37.052269, -122.0884018

Veer left to stay on the main trail. Veering right, leads down a small game trail to the creek bank.


Location: 37.0550156, -122.0919113

Gold! (Okay, not really). This section of hillside is known for its rich pyrite deposits, which glisten in the sun depending on the time of day.


Location: 37.0566101, -122.0927429

Continue across a bridge and turn left @ the Y-junction. Merge onto the South Fork Trail.


Location: 37.0572281, -122.0939713

Rounding the bend, the sky suddenly emerges through the thick redwood canopy and illuminates the dark forest.


Location: 37.058712, -122.0971375

Reach the remnants of several limestone kilns, which generated major business in 19th-century Santa Cruz–and a fortune for Henry Cowell and other California entrepreneurs. After exploring this area, make a U-turn and retrace steps back to the trailhead.

Beginning of the Bennett Creek Trail

Location: 37.0496826, -122.0831528

©Tim Shisler

Bennett Creek Trail

Location: 37.050705, -122.0830231

©Tim Shisler

Trail Junction

Location: 37.0511703, -122.0852737

©Tim Shisler


Location: 37.0565758, -122.0927353

©Tim Shisler

Forest Opening

Location: 37.0572128, -122.0939407

©Tim Shisler

Limestone Kilns

Location: 37.0587196, -122.0971298

©Tim Shisler

Three Limestone Kilns

Location: 37.0586929, -122.0970917

©Tim Shisler