Explore the most popular walking trails in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

6/22/18: Aptos Creek Trail remains impassable—If you are up for the 15-16 mile round trip detour (my track said 17.9, but I parked as far as the main entrance station), the falls is absolutely beautiful and secluded right now. I stayed for a couple of hours, laying on the smooth rocks and swimming beneath the cascade, which was a nice reward for the grueling trek up. Surprisingly not very buggy, but as always, check yourself and furry friends for ticks! I might do this again soon and make it an overnight by camping at the West Ridge Trail camp. There are a few large downed trees to scramble over and some overgrowth as you get closer to the falls, but my dog and I handled it with no problems. I took Donut Trail to Big Slide to get off the main road on the way up, but I wouldn’t recommend it in the uphill direction, it was killer, narrow ankle twisting single track up a really steep grade. Lots of mountain bikers as usual, but all very friendly and courteous of my off leash dog.

Lots of poison oak on the return route. AllTrails suggests parking at the trail entrance but to shave off a mile or two you can continue to drive the paved road until it dead ends and start the hike from there.

Good for hiking, family gathering and must visit.

Did this in 3hr 25min, but started at the second parking lot on the way in, I believe it was 12mi round trip.

I run and hike quite often, but the last 2mi to the Overlook got me huffing and puffing.

Beautiful hike on the way up, but like others have said the second half is just a fire road.

The last mile of the trail is the only real interesting part and requires some careful hiking as well. The falls had decent water considering the last rains were a month ago.

Also you don't need a 4x4 to go to the actual trailhead which is a mile ahead of what the app tells you. I wish I had taken it instead of parking early since hiking that part was really not worth it.

Beautiful trail! Keep going until you reach the end of the valley where the falls are - you’ll know when you’ve made it. The trail involves lots of ups and downs and scrambles over rocks and trees but is well travelled. The falls are delicate and lovely and there’s a great fallen tree for a bench. A great little hike!

Trail is still very much impassable - the bridge work-around is no longer there so there isn’t a way to continue on the trail. If you want to see Five Finger Falls you’ll have to take the long way up and around - you can access the trail and falls further up from Aptos Creek Fire Road to White’s Lagoon Road to Big Slide Trail, but it’s steep and much longer.

Note: when they get this trail fixed up you can hike it from Porter Family picnic area in summer which will cut out about 4 miles of what AllTrails says the round trip is.

Great trail run this afternoon. The people at Land of Medicine Buddha could not have been nicer when I parked on their road (I did make a donation). The map that they provide at their book shop is actually really helpful as it has landmarks that AllTrails does not (e.g. power lines). I saw no one on the whole run until the last 1/4 Mile. Lots of Poison Oak on top, as reported in other reviews. .

hiking
2 months ago

This is my go-to trail for any visitors. Short, sweet, and there’s a 1000 year old downed tree you can walk on!

Great 3 mike shortcut to the top most view (Sand Point Overlook). It’s very uphill, and follows a fire road through some interesting undeveloped properties.

It begins with a creek crossing (barefoot if it’s running strong). Don’t miss the abandoned Jeep.

Lots of PO this time of year. Otherwise beautiful redwoods and a nice up and back. Take your map. No trail markings. We started left and came back through centre.

Loved this hike. It was tough, but BEAUTIFUL!!!

Beautiful, peaceful trail!

hiking
2 months ago

We hiked this trail on 3/29/27. Spring break for many. Weather was in the 70’s during the day. This was a great escape from the hot sun on our winter bodies. There is pretty much no sun on the hike, which was perfect. Green, lush and beautiful. We crossed the creek 19 times, across a few bridges, during our 8.6 mile hike round trip. It is a pretty easy hike most of the way, but towards the end the creek crossing were a little sketchy. But, don’t stop until you get all the wall to the falls at the end if there is water in the creek.

Beautiful woods, friendly trails and lovely waterfalls made for a enjoyable hike on 10+ miles in 5 hours.

If you are new to this park - Poison oaks are abound so cover yourself well. The road in has lots of pot holes so drive accordingly.

This is a loop that can be done on a day that I have to work in the morning or afternoon, with a rewarding view at the top. It’ll get your blood pumping, although I would say it is more like 6 miles, not 9 as the map says. I park in the Safeway parking lot and take the Aptos Rancho Trail, the start of which is located at the end of the dead end Aptos Rancho Rd, across the street from the entrance to the shopping center.

After a single, easy creek crossing, Aptos Rancho Trail winds along Aptos Creek, never too steeply, through groves of redwoods and coastal oak, fir, and laurel trees. There is plenty of shade cover throughout this entire hike, but especially here. There are some beautiful, high up vistas of the creek. The trail will take you all the way to George's Picnic Area, where there is a pit toilet. Walk past the toilet and head up Redwood Drive Trail, which takes you to the border of Nisene Marks and onto Monte Toyon's property. You won’t get in trouble for hiking here, although you may run into groups of kids in the summer. This is a good time to let your dog off leash. The main trail is not too steep until the final tenth of a mile or so, if you decide to head all the way up this half mile leg of the loop to the Soquel Creek Water District access road. Then you will take a right onto the trail which goes uphill and follow it to the bench with a view.

However, I prefer to take the slightly overgrown leg of the loop the uphill direction; this is an inconspicuous right turn just beyond the similarly inconspicuous chain link fence that marks the border between properties, just about a tenth of a mile past George’s Picnic Area according to this map. This trail is very narrow and not heavily trodden, but completely passable, and quite the workout! You'll continue on to the right when you come to the next intersection, following the spur until you get to the bench at the top. On a clear day there are beautiful views of the Monterey Bay.

Double back and take the leg of the loop you missed on the way back down to George’s Picnic Area. The Buggy Trail spur on the way back is optional, but it's a fun little trail. There are lots of little trails worth exploring in Marcel’s Forest and lower Nisene Marks in general as well. Make sure you take Aptos Rancho Trail back and not the Aptos Creek Fire Road if you parked at Safeway, and as always, be mindful of water consumption, sun protection, ticks, and poison oak.

West Ridge Trail never disappoints. This single track trail is in near perfect condition since the CCC’s recent efforts. The setting is beautiful second and third growth redwood forest interspersed with coastal mixed oak woodland. This park manages to feel moist and full of life even in the driest seasons. Really shady, and moderate incline for the most part. Only one exposed part of the loop toward the last stretch of WRT. I hiked this as a 14 mile loop in 4 and a half hours at a steady pace with few breaks and it felt pretty easy. Such gorgeous views of Monterey Bay and Capitola/Santa Cruz from Sand Point Overook. Watch for ticks and bikers. As with most state parks, I love this one most on the weekday mornings, as that is when it is most quiet. Aptos Fire Road on the return is just as beautiful and well-maintained, but it is just that, a fire road. The sound of running water is a joy to walk to, and there are some cool historical points with info about the logging industry in the area and life in that time.

The bridge was watched out but someone screwed on some boards so it was possible to climb up the fallen bridge ( a little shady but fun if you don’t fall) the rest of the hike was challenging but some really unique scenery. Worth it but not for rookies.

Beautiful trail, but could be better marked. Fortunately, I passed just enough people on a late Sunday afternoon to assure me I was going the right way!

We used the direction tab from this apps instead of reading an instruction on how to get there, we ended up with hiking about 1-1.5 miles ( I forgot to track the exact miles) extra each way unintentionally. The direction from the apps took as to Mesa Grande Rd which ends at the entrance of the Nisene Marks park. Took a trail on the right side near that entrance. Follow the direction to Apto creek road to get to the trail head. It’s an easy stroll until about a mile to the fall and it becomes moderate hike along the creek. Not much water at this time for Maple fall.

Even with an average waterfall, amazing hike. TH easy to find. First 2 miles flat, wide & well maintained trail. Also a lot of runners first few miles. Next few miles trail got muddy in places, was pretty narrow but no one else around. At 3.5 miles you start crossing the stream multiples times and a few more obstacles including a short tree you walk across and also having to pull yourself up on the trail (pictures included) but not to bad the last.5 miles. The last 2 miles in a ton of mountain bikers but still peaceful. Get there early - very little parking when I left

Great trail! Beautiful the whole time. Not easy but moderate :)

This approach to West Ridge Trail through LOTMB is a slight deviation from the normal loop. I had never seen it before, and I hike this park all the time. It starts the same, but the trail forks when the normal loop starts to head up and away from the creek (I had to use my GPS to spot it, as LOTMB doesn’t have great signage anyway, and there are lots of diverging footpaths along the creekside), and this trail crosses the creek and heads up the same ridge in a different way. It meets back up with the original trail before the loop heads back down the ridge or continues on into Nisene Marks, but in a strange way—it just sort of ended and left me scratching my head, and then I emerged back onto the original trail through some brush, startling some other hikers in the process! It seems like it is an old spur that has fallen into disuse, as it is extremely narrow, with lots of washed out sections. There are some really steep spots, which makes sense, as the part of the loop this trail diverges from is all switchbacks, and this trail has basically none. I was also hiking after some light rain, and some of these parts of the trail were so muddy I had to pull myself up by holding onto exposed roots or whatever I could find that was sturdy. It’s just as beautiful as the rest of LOTMB, but I would just stick to the normal loop. It is neither faster to West Ridge Trail, easier, nor more beautiful than the rest of the loop, and in parts, it seems like you shouldn’t be on it at all.

What an amazing hike! We didn’t quite make it to Maple Falls, due to time, but what a great excuse to come back. The gate is closed to the Porter Family Picnic area, so you can choose free parking right before the entrance or pay the $8 to park at the first parking/picnic area. It’s about a mile extra onto your hike to Maple Falls, so plan time accordingly. Get there before 10am, after parking is scarce. We parked with ease at about 9am on a Sunday. I loved seeing so many others biking, running, and waking the trail. From Porter Family Picnic area to Loma Preita Grade is kid friendly and an easy walk. After, as you continue on to Bridge Creek Trail towards Maple Creek there are a few iffy spots for younger kids. Overall a great day spent in Nisene.

Awesome place for a run and/or hike. I actually did an extra loop to make it over 12 miles. Make sure to go all the way to the end for the 2nd waterfall

Land of the Medicine Buddha gets Five stars. My experience today would get zero.

Nisene Marks and LOTMB are beautiful and serene. I have no negative comments about the park / retreat center itself.

I took my seven month old Labrador Retriever to Land of the Medicine Buddha today for the first time (his first time not mine) today. I thought it would be a nice serene place to take my dog as it’s a retreat area and surrounded by beautiful nature and Buddhist blessings.

Unfortunately an off leash dog attacked my dog. It pinned him on his back to the ground and bit has face chest and legs. I am going to have to take him to the vet as he has bled a lot and has open wounds.

Please people, if you bring your dog be responsible. We all want to enjoy the space in peace. Safety of others and your own is paramount. It was heartbreaking to hear his cries and see all the blood. My dog was leashed but I felt helpless at being able to get the dog off mine and because he was leashed he could not run away from the other dog. There are leash laws for a reason so please abide by them.

6 months ago

Short trail, don't waste your time.

Fun hike, this is where most of the people go. Not a lot of elevation gain but the river is cool.

There are a number of loop trails here. All are good. Along the trail there are various monuments, statues and places of worship which makes the trail interesting.

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