Big Creek Reserve – Canogas Falls and Warm Springs
This winter, I was studying the Big Sur Map ( http://bigsurtrailmap.net ) and I saw a cool looking, isolated waterfall called “Canogas” falls. I contacted Leor, and he said that this area is closed except for one day per year, the 2nd Saturday in May! I marked my calendar, as suddenly this area became more enticing the moment it became a limited resource. Permits were acquired online ( http://rams.ucnrs.org ) through a surprisingly detailed application procedure. If you plan to go, they ask that you apply at least a week in advance.
When we arrived, the gates opened at 9am, and they had hundreds of names of people who had signed up. Don’t worry, they said, this park will suck up all those people; you won’t see many… And it more or less did. Most of the time, it was just me, Leor, and Joey.
One thing Leor did not tell me about was that early on in the journey, there is a “warm spring.” I had been to Sykes, so I wasn’t too excited about this spring. In fact, I forgot about it until we arrived at a 100F clean bubbling turquoise pool of goodness! (first picture). This was a full fledged hot spring! I jumped in to soak, I looked up at the mystical fog billowing in the redwood trees encircling us. Maybe we could just stay here!
Without drying, we headed up into the thick fog gaining elevation. Leor frequently stated his optimism for a clearing of the fog, and his calculations for when it needed to clear by – if it was going to clear at all. We even took a side trip to Eagle Rock (in an attempt to get vertical and above the fog). The rock was probably a super beautiful place to observe the ocean, but socked in. Instead, we discussed beautiful places like Havasupai Falls, and debated about the location of the ocean.
From here, we commuted over to Canogas Falls, which was the main attraction of the day. We traveled either in the marine layer, or just below it all the way to the falls. Along the way, we saw Janet, Glenn, and Kass – exactly where we expected – they had just returned from their hike to the falls. Credit for the picture of the trees in the fog goes to Janet.
Upon arrival, it was a dark, diffuse light, which I thought was quite nice – but Leor was still lamenting. I decided that swimming was out of the question: it was a cold day, and the water was very chilly. But then something happened. Leor must have a red-phone to God, because after all that talk about marine layers and the impossibility of it clearing – a blue circle opened above us, and Canogas Falls – all 4 levels – were brimming in sunshine. Next thing you knew we were swimming and making (but not taking) dares to see who could do silly things like jump into the water from the top of the 80 foot falls. There are at least 4 cascades here that we saw, the 80′ being the largest. It is worth carefully scrambling around the sides to get good views.
Mark your calendar for next year, as Big Creek Reserve has two special treats for you: an awesome water fall, and a spectacular hot springs. It seems that they are very strict about permits at other times of the year (you need to be conducting research, as Big Creek is affiliated with UCSC). However, I believe we heard a rumor that you could trade a trail work day for a visit day – so that might be an option if you do not have this day in May available next year.