Though only eight miles from Santa Cruz’s sandy shores, the forested town of Felton feels worlds away. It’s a wonderland of giant trees, historic sites and even a lush Garden of Eden. Yet some of its most striking attractions are hidden from plain view. Take a peek at our photo tour below and see why the charming town draws a mix of hikers, history buffs and happy families.
Felton was a major logging site, buzzing with saw mills and dotted with lime kilns, when it was officially founded in 1868. Much of the lumber and limestone it produced — loaded on trains that chugged their cargo down to the wharf — helped rebuild San Francisco after the devastating 1906 quake.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park takes its name from the 19th century industrialist who logged this scenic parcel of land before his family donated it to the state. The quick Redwood Loop tours visitors through one of the last remaining old-growth redwood groves in the area. The separate Fall Creek Unit leads hikers along a gurgling creek to beautiful old limestone kilns overtaken by nature.
As the lazy San Lorenzo River wends its way through the forested Santa Cruz Mountains, it pauses occasionally to form deep swimming pools. The most popular of these is the Garden of Eden, a lush oasis hidden within the redwoods.
Getting to the Garden of Eden is nearly as fun as dipping into its deep, cooling pools. From the Ox Parking Lot — roughly one mile south of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park entrance on Highway 9 — follow a wide, dirt path until you arrive at railroad tracks. Follow the tracks about ¼ mile to the right until you reach a series of signs prohibiting dogs and diving. A narrow trail behind the signs leads you down to the picturesque swimming hole.
Felton’s a small town, but you’ll likely have one big celebrity sighting: Bigfoot! Well, at least his likeness which appears throughout the fun Bigfoot Museum. Contemplate the many exhibits before heading back into the woods to search for the big guy yourself.
The 1892 Felton Covered Bridge is a fascinating link to the region’s bygone era.
Constructed to protect its wooden planks from the elements, it’s considered to be the tallest covered bridge in the nation. The intricate redwood structure is a wonder to stroll, camera in hand.
Another way to dip into the past is at Roaring Camp Railroads, a recreated logging camp ringed by the forested ridgeline of neighboring redwoods.
Hop aboard an antique steam engine train that hauls guests through the redwoods or just wander the atmospheric grounds.
Families can engage in hands-on activities including panning for gold, blacksmith demonstrations and chatting up volunteers who share what life was like long before Facebook.
Opened last year by our friends at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, The Cremer House is a handsome contemporary restaurant housed in a former hotel built in 1874. It’s a great stop for a beer — they’ve got 25 on tap! — and a bite on the pleasant wrap-around porch.
Be sure to take home a bottle of their zippy homemade pickles, hot sauce, and mustard.