Not long after our introduction to Villa Montalvo, I was scrolling through Facebook when someone posted that they had reservations to Uvas Canyon County Park that they weren’t going to use. I had never heard of Uvas Canyon, but the post was accompanied by a photo of a dad and toddler splashing near a waterfall, so I was intrigued to say the least! I missed out on the reservation by a minute that day, but quickly made my own. An easy family-friendly waterfall hike close to home with some crowd control? Yes, please!

Banana Slug sighting at the start of the trail, Uvas Canyon.
  • Main Entrance: 8515 Croy Rd Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • Parking: $6 per vehicle, advance reservations required 7 days per week through July 31, 2020
  • Hours: 8am – Sunset
  • Trail Map
  • Dog Friendly: Yes
  • Stroller Friendly: Strollers are not recommended for the full waterfall loop, though it is possible if you do an out-and-back to Myrtle Flats, staying on the wide North side of the trail the whole way. The bridge and stairs at Granuja Falls can be bypassed via a trail that begins in the group picnic area.
  • Park Features: Waterfalls, Self-Guided Nature Trail, Camping
  • Trails We Visited: Waterfall Loop Nature Trail, 1.6 miles
  • Our Visit Elevation: 616 feet.
  • Our Time: Approximately 2 hours with plenty of stops.
  • Remember to check Santa Clara County Park Site for updates related to Covid-19 safety guidance.

Finding Uvas Canyon

 

After finally visiting the Montalvo trails, I was curious to learn more about our local parks system, and what I might be missing by always visiting the same trails. We are always looking for fun things to do with the family that are budget-friendly and safe in this age of Covid-19, so I was super excited to check out this park with a Morgan Hill address, that looked nothing like the Morgan Hill I knew!

The first thing to know about visiting the Uvas Canyon County Park is that reservations are currently required 7 days per week. Parking is limited, and as we wound through the country and then the mountains on our way to visit, I was very relieved that we had a reserved spot. When we arrived, there were only a few cars in the lot so we also knew we wouldn’t have to worry about crowds on the trails.  I actually like this reservation system, and wish it was more common as more and more of us look to the trails as a safe place to recreate. 

Uvas Canyon County Park Waterfall Loop Trail

We seem to have a knack for getting a bit turned around on trails that seem easy for others to follow. I’ve always loved The Chicks’ “Taking the Long Way,” particularly the line that says, “I could never follow.” Let’s just say it’s taken on a whole new meaning these days. This was on my mind as we hopped out of the car and looked for the trailhead. We grabbed a park map and the Waterfall Loop Nature Trail Guide, and then realized we had no idea which direction to go from there. We ended up having to ask for help just to leave the parking lot! So, in case you’re like me, you get started by heading toward the bathroom located behind the park map.

Pass the amphitheater and keep walking toward the picnic grounds. If you have a stroller, you can veer to the left at the picnic area and connect with the trail past the Granuja Falls bridge. Otherwise, keep walking toward the campground. You’ll see the Nature Trail numbers begin near the creek, and then will climb a rocky stairway toward the bridge that crosses the creek near Granuja Falls.

Starting a trail with waterfalls, a bridge, and a banana slug sighting made for an exciting start to the trail for the kiddos! 

Just past Granuja Falls is an Old Dam that creates a little pool of water. We let the boys hop off the trail here for a little rock scrambling near the creek. 

The Old Dam

Past this dam, there is a fork in the loop trail. We kept to the right to begin the loop on the wider side of the trail. This side of the trail is stroller friendly, but the other half of the loop which follows the creek more closely is not. If you have a stroller, you can do an out and back on this half of the trail. 

We chose to leave the stroller at home for our visit. It’s the longest trail that 3 year old Bug has walked, but he did great!  The wider side of the trail is a constant incline on the way up to Myrtle Flats, but looking for the Nature Trail numbers helped break up the walk, not to mention other fun distractions like a little scramble along Black Rock Falls, playing on the Resting Rock, and spotting our first snake. 

 

After a little under a mile uphill you’ll come to a picnic table at Myrtle Flats. The areas by Myrtle Flats are a great place for a snack or lunch before continuing on to the other side of the trail which follows the creek. 

Myrtle Flats Rest Area

We decided to keep going to check out the Upper Falls, where we spotted a family having lunch at the top of the falls. Given that we’re always looking for space these days, we didn’t want to crowd anyone so we headed over to Basin Falls where we settled in for a snack before heading back down. The pause allowed us to notice a chipmunk scurrying out of a rocky crevice and the boys followed a few damsel flies as they buzzed about. 

Spotting the snake on our way up was an exciting find for the boys, but I was a little too nervous to spend much time relaxing on the rocks. Shortly before our visit, a friend had told me she spotted a baby rattlesnake near the creek where her daughter was playing. It was a good reminder that rattlesnakes are common to most trails in the Santa Clara hillsides, even those like Uvas that feel damp and forested!

After some applesauce and gummies, we headed back down to Myrtle Flats along the side of the trail that follows the creek, offering plenty of opportunities to play and explore. This side of the trail has a few steep and narrow sections, which made it a bit more challenging than our usual walks, but it was a fun adventure for the boys. As usual, we made our way slowly, allowing others to pass as they sped along. Taking some time to explore and splash made this part of the trail a fast favorite for our family.

When you get back to the dam, there is a small creek crossing. The creek and falls are spring-fed and flow year round, but rise after rains. Just something to note should you visit during a rainier season, when higher water levels would make this part of the trail more of a challenge with little kids.  

The primitive mosses, fungi, and ferns – yes, I enjoy reading nature trail guides – that thrive along this side of the loop make it feel far from a typical South Bay trail, and kept us shaded and cool almost the entire way back.

Uvas Canyon County Park is a local gem, and I’m so glad we took the time to visit. It offered something for everyone in our family, and we’re already looking forward to returning!

Uvas Canyon County Park Features

  • Uvas has a campground with 25 individual sites and the Upper Bench Group Campsite which can be reserved for up to 50 people (currently closed due to Covid-19). We took a stroll to the campground, thinking this would be an ideal spot for a quick camping getaway.
  • The Black Oak Group Picnic Area can also be reserved for up to 75 people (currently closed due to Covid-19). 
  • In addition to the Waterfall Loop, the park has 7.2 miles of trails at varying degrees of difficulty. The Triple Falls Trail is definitely on our list to check out at some point. 

Next Up on Our Uvas Canyon County Park List

We love how the Waterfall Loop Trail is easy to access and that we feel like we’re much further away from home than we really are!  Because we’re just starting to camp, we think staying over would make for a great little getaway once campground reservations are open again. 

Click here for more info on camping at Uvas from John Cody at The Outdoor Project.

What Was That Swedish Colony We Drove through on the Way to the Park Entrance?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last few miles before arriving at the Uvas Canyon County Park Entrance we were surprised as the scenery transitioned into a small community of cabins, many of which displayed the Swedish flag. As it turns out, the Swedish American Patriotic League purchased this land in 1926. The property was dedicated by crown prince Gustav Adolf and his wife, and named “Sveadal”.

One of the original goals of Sveadal’s founders was to continue to host an annual Midsummer, a tradition started in the Bay Area by Swedish immigrants in Golden Gate Park in 1894. Communally hosting a Midsummer festival remains of central importance to the group, though this year’s festival had to be moved to a virtual platform for the first time in the festival’s 126 year history.

Thanks for joining us on our little Uvas Canyon County Park Adventure! Please share your own thoughts, ideas, or Uvas photos in the comments. We hope you’ll join us on the next trail as we continue exploring our parks!