Celebrate Free Redwood Parks Day
Limekiln State Park Offers Waterfalls and Forests
The Save the Redwoods League has teamed with the California State Parks system for Free Redwood Parks Day, an anti-Black Friday celebration of California’s mightiest trees. All 49 of California’s redwood state parks will be open for free to the public on Friday, November 27, in an effort to counteract the rampant over-commercialization that now traditionally follows the Thursday turkey.
For Santa Barbarans, there may be no better place to enjoy these red-hued giants than Limekiln State Park, the southernmost state park along the Big Sur Coast. Located not much more than three hours north of our chaparral shores, the little park (711 acres in size) is a perfect family-friendly escape. Limekiln was preserved in order to protect the remnants of an 1800s lime-smelting operation, as well as a lovely beach and a wonderland of redwood forest.
Limekiln also protects the usually spectacular Limekiln Falls. Most times of the year, Limekiln Falls is one of California’s finest, framed by scenery so spectacular it feels almost make-believe — towering redwoods, regal cattails, and the templed crags of 5,155-foot Cone Peak, from which the waters of Limekiln Falls descend. The canyon it carves is the steepest coastal canyon in the lower 48. Sadly, come Redwood Friday, Limekiln is not likely to be more than a trickle over its 100-foot limestone cliffs, due to the seemingly unending drought.
Even in the absence of a full falls, there is still much to be grateful for. For one, the Falls Trail is as gentle as they come. Ascending a barely detectable 100 feet over its half-mile course from the beach, the Limekiln Falls hike is best described as a gentle stroll or refreshing walk more than a hike. Furthermore, it can be linked with the Kiln and Hare Creek trails, for a slightly longer and no less strenuous 2.65 roundtrip loop.
The hike begins over a large wooden bridge, which crosses babbling Hare Creek. Keep left to join the Falls Trail, where the West Fork and Limekiln Creek merge. The waters in these regions are gently tinged with minerals, giving them a turquoise tone. Large clover meadows and ferns blanket the ground on the shady canyon floor, and old-growth redwoods surround in all directions.
The Falls Trail may feel especially exciting for young ones. There are opportunities for spontaneous joys and small adventures. Though by no means rugged, the trail does narrow a bit, becoming slightly wilder in feel. Further up the trail, one crosses the creek via fallen logs or improvised little footbridges. When you come to the falls, be careful not to slip over the mist-blasted rocks, which even in drier times inherit the spectacular spray. The trail ends here, leaving you to contemplate the majesty for as long as you may before you head peacefully beachward.
Not only is it easy, but it’s simultaneously very accessible and slightly overlooked. Its small size and slightly precarious position along Highway 1 guarantees a relatively uncrowded experience versus the more postcard-famous sights of the Pfeiffer parks further north.
For those families seeking a breath of fresh air from the Black Friday routine, Limekiln may be just the place. And even if society considers you of retirement age, you may feel a rekindled innocence in the magic forests and falls of this Big Sur gem. It would be a great place to take your family to burn off the post-feast calorie boom and treasure the magical things in life that cannot be bought.
All visitors planning to see the redwoods on Freed Redwood Parks Day must go to SaveTheRedwoods.org/freefriday to download and print out a paper copy of the Free Redwoods State Parks Day-Use Pass. Passes must be presented to a State Parks employee or displayed on your vehicle’s dashboard.