The Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop lies within the Uvas Canyon Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The upper part of the Loop follows Swanson Creek, which, along with several natural springs, keeps the hundreds of falls and smaller creeks flowing year round but especially during the rainy winter months. This short, but beautiful trail meanders through dense forest adorned with moss-covered trees, downed logs and rocks lining the path and the falls. Wooden footbridges and boardwalks traverse the falls and creeks, and make walking along the mossy path safer.
The trail begins at the trailhead as a wide, dirt-covered forest road, but soon narrows as it pulls you up gradual inclines and small descents and around corners where you're surprised by yet another stream or cascade. Walking under a thick canopy of trees, you and your furry friend will remain cool as you view your surroundings, watching out for the abundant flora and fauna, including blackberries, laurel, ferns, redwoods and others; wildlife includes larger mammals like mountain lions and coyotes, banana slugs, spiders and beetles. Birds flit among the trees while serenading the air, and hummingbirds hover at eye level while turkey vultures and hawks stand watch in the upper branches of trees for their next meal.
Parking for the trail is $6.00 for the day, or $95 for an annual pass, with discounts for military, seniors, handicapped persons and others. A kiosk at the trailhead provides takeaway maps and information about the trail and its environs and reiterates the importance of keeping your fur-pup securely leashed. You'll also find doggy waste bags and a receptacle there, as well as restrooms and drinkable water. Picnic tables and shelters are conveniently located near the entrance and pups are welcome to join you for a snack or meal.
Many large and small boulders offer gentle challenges as you hike, although most of them are alongside the trail and simply enhance the scenery. You'll pass intersections with signs that beckon you to lengthen your walk, such as on the Contour Falls and Alec Canyon Trails. Whatever your favorite part of this trail turns out to be, you're sure to enjoy it and want to come back again and again!
This trail travels through the habitats of mountain lions, coyotes, tarantulas and bees, so be sure to take precautions and avoid these critters if you encounter them. There is also poison oak along the trail, and the best way to avoid it is to stay on the path, and wear long sleeves and pants.