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Maple Falls Hike in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

With trail statistics that looked easy on paper, and a waterfall that is little known except by the locals, my expectations were pretty low. What a pleasant surprise this hiked turned out to be!

Even though The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is listed as undeveloped in many publications, majority of this hike is well maintained and well marked. It only becomes challenging at the very last 0.5 miles, as you will find out later in this guide.

The trailhead parking is comically small, so most people will park on the side of the road. On weekends, when these spots fill up, rangers will close the road completely and you will have to park near the park entrance and walk in. Even though the extra walk is easy and pleasant, it will add approximately 1.1 mile EACH WAY to your hike. So arrive early or arrive later in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.

Begin the hike by continuing on the fire road you drove in on, walk past the steel bridge that spans a gorgeous canyon. Beyond the bridge, there is a locked gate. (In the summer, you may be able to drive further if you are a registered camper.) The road is fully shaded and flat, a very easy walk. 

360 VR Trail Views

As you continue on, the trail narrows and you will come to a junction with a sign and a chair nearby. You will take the trail on the left and begin a climb. The trail is the Aptos Creek Fire Road eventually leads you to the Loma Prieta Earthquake epicenter. 

Trail Map

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Trail Stats and Need to Know

Difficulty Rating
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Steady and easy climb until the end, where a steep staircase might present some challenge if you are afraid of heights.
Photogenic Rating
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360 degree view all around, and a steep cliff edge to peer down if you feel adventurous!
Overall Worthiness
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Great scenery and an easy climb. No wonder this trail is popular.

10.03 mi
(16.14 km)


Lollipop Loop


4.5 hr



1410 ft
(430 m)


1410 ft
(430 m)


845 ft
(258 m)


167 ft
(51 m)

  • Well maintained trail with a nice moderate grade until the last 0.5 mile.
  • Almost the entire trail is shaded.
  • Small but elegant waterfall.
  • Challenging to find parking on weekends.
  • The last half mile might take you by surprise and can be quite physically demanding.
  • Winter and spring is the best time to see the waterfall, but your shoes will almost certainly get wet. 

Recommended footwear:

Trailrunner with good traction on sandy and wet surface.


California State Park Pass.

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About The Author

Peng Shi is a Photographer and a World Traveler and the co-owner of a guided tour company in San Diego, California. He caught the travel bug at age 9 when his father took him on an epic road trip that covered 43 states in the U.S. and he hasn’t looked back since. 

He believes we can all become better human beings if we traveled more looked at the world from some different perspectives. Hence why he founded this website.

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