Hike to Tiptoe Falls in the Santa Cruz Mountains
You won’t need a lot of fancy footwork to hike the short distance to Tiptoe, but you will want some water-resistant hiking shoes to reach this lovely oasis hidden away in Portola Redwoods State Park. Set deep in the lush coastal forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this 2,800-acre park is incredibly quiet but for gurgling streams and some spring-happy birds.
Our recommended route is Iverson Trail to Tiptoe Falls (see TIP below), which is a slight detour from the standard Tiptoe Falls Trail, not currently recommended due to seasonal bridges being removed. The Iverson Trail to Tiptoe Falls route brings the hike to about 2.5 miles (round-trip). Begin at the parking lot on Portola State Park Road, taking the Service Road slightly uphill and crossing a modern steel bridge. Keep walking and follow the sign “Service Road to Old Haul Road.” At the top of the hill, turn right onto Old Haul Road (formerly a logging route), which leads through a majestic redwood forest where sunlight trickles in.
Continue on Old Haul Road for a short stretch. Look out for the signpost “Iverson Trail to Tiptoe Falls.” Turn right at this signpost and walk downhill through a grove of tall redwoods and tan oak trees. The lowest point of the trail is marshland and can be muddy after heavy rains. Watch out for fallen trees or unexpected debris after stormy rains. You may need to clamber over broken branches before taking a left turn onto the spur trail that leads to Tiptoe Falls. Follow this stream-side path along Fall Creek (a tributary of Pescadero Creek) until you reach a ravishing scene at the end of the spur trail, under the umbrella of towering redwoods in a protected fern-covered canyon. Gushing waterfall tiers currently flow abundantly down a 6-foot drop, tumbling over rocks into a pool surrounded by mossy banks. After recent rains, this simple hike to Tiptoe Falls delivers some wow!
TIP: The Iverson Trail to Tiptoe Falls is an alternative route to the standard Tiptoe Falls Trail. The reason is that Tiptoe Falls Trail has seasonal bridges, which have been removed due to high water levels. Before beginning your hike, check with the staff at the visitor center about the conditions of the trails. You can also check the website for updates and information.
When you arrive at Portola Redwoods State Park, use the 15-minute parking lot in front of the visitor center to park briefly and pay the $10 day-use fee. Then drive to the parking lot further up Portola Park State Road, where you can park for the day. The visitor center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. No dogs.
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