Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop: Family Waterfall Fun

Though I grew up in San Jose, it took a random Facebook post to call my attention to Uvas Canyon. The post had a photo of a dad and toddler splashing near a waterfall…in Morgan Hill??  I was intrigued, to say the least! In no time we had reservations of our own for this gorgeous and easy family-friendly waterfall hike. Uvas is now one of my favorite family day hikes, especially on a hot South Bay day.

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IN THIS POST:

OUR YOUTUBE VIDEO ON VISITING THE UVAS CANYON WATERFALL LOOP

Button to YouTube video of Uvas Canyon

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Always check the official Uvas Canyon County Park site for the latest updates related to Covid-19 safety guidance and park conditions. Reservations are required at this park 7 days per week. Make sure to purchase a vehicle pass before you make the trip!

  • Main Entrance: 8515 Croy Rd Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • Entrance Fee: $6 per vehicle, advance reservations required 7 days per week (as of March 2021)
  • Hours: 8am – Sunset
  • Uvas Canyon County Park Trail Map
  • Dog Friendly: Dogs permitted on leash.
  • Stroller Friendly: Strollers not recommended for the full waterfall loop, though it is possible if you do an out-and-back to Myrtle Flats. An off-road stroller will do fine if you stay on the wide north side of the trail the whole way. Bypass the bridge and stairs at Granuja Falls via the trail that begins in the Black Oak group picnic area.
  • Restrooms: There are restrooms available near the parking lot, behind the trailhead.
  • Park Features: Waterfalls, Self-Guided Nature Trail, Camping, Group Picnic Sites

GETTING TO UVAS CANYON COUNTY PARK

Buildings in Sveadal, a small community owned by the Swedish American Patriotic League

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. 

The last few miles before arriving at the entrance gate to Uvas Canyon County Park is through an area called “Sveadal.” The mountainous scenery transitions into a small community of cabins, many of which display the Swedish flag. As it turns out, the Swedish American Patriotic League purchased this land in 1926. Make sure to drive slow here, and know that you may need to reverse to allow room for passing traffic.

UVAS CANYON SHORT WATERFALL LOOP OVERVIEW

  • Trail: Waterfall Loop Nature Trail, 1.6 miles
  • Elevation: 616 feet.
  • Time: Approximately 2 hours with plenty of stops
  • Waterfall Highlights: Granuja Falls, Old Dam, Black Rock Falls, Upper Falls, Basin Falls

GETTING STARTED

Starting from the parking lot, grab a park map and Waterfall Loop Nature Trail Guide at the trailhead. I already got a bit lost from here (of course), and had to ask for help just to leave the parking lot! Assuming some of you are like me, I’ll let you know that you get started by heading toward the bathroom located behind the large trailhead map. 

From there, pass the amphitheater and keep walking toward the large group 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. You’ll see the Nature Trail numbers begin near the creek and then climb a rocky stairway toward the bridge that crosses the creek near Granuja Falls.

Bridge over Granuja Falls

On our first visit, we started seeing banana slugs here, which thrilled the boys! Starting a trail with waterfalls, bridges, and a banana slug made for an exciting start.

Just past Granuja Falls on the left 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. After the Old Dam, there is a fork in the 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.

JJ playing at the Old Dam on the Uvas Waterfall Loop

We decided to leave the stroller at home for our first visit. It was the first long-ish trail for 3-year-old Bug, and 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. 

Photo Looking back at the wider fire road of the Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop
The family pausing on the Resting Rock along the Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop

MYRTLE FLATS PICNIC AREA

The Myrtle Flats Picnic Area at Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop

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.

UPPER FALLS AND BASIN FALLS

Upper Falls from below
Upper Falls
Basin Falls
Basin Falls

In our experience, Basin Falls tends to be less crowded than Upper Falls. We settle in for a snack near here, watch chipmunks scurrying out of the rocky crevices and follow the damselflies as they buzz about. 

Upper Falls is the largest waterfall of the loop. You can walk up the side of the falls, and look back down over the top. This was a highlight of our visit, but of course, means more crowds. The boys would have stayed much longer, but we moved on to make space for some of the other families. The top of Upper Falls was the only spot on the trail where keeping distance was any issue at all.

FOLLOWING SWANSON CREEK

Fallen Trees and boulders on the Uvas Waterfall Loop
JJ playing in Swanson Creek

We headed back down to Myrtle Flats and then over to 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.

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! If you’re wondering what to do in case of a rattlesnake bite, click here for a helpful interview with Genie Moore. 

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. If you visit after a rain, the water levels might be higher here. This would make it more of a challenge with little kids.  

CAMPING & OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO AT UVAS CANYON COUNTY PARK

  • Uvas has a campground with 25 individual sites. The Upper Bench Group Campsite 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 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!

WHY WE LOVE UVAS CANYON COUNTY PARK

John and the kids toward the end of the Uvas Waterfall Loop

An easy, kid and dog-friendly waterfall hike just a short drive from the south bay has wide appeal! The primitive mosses, fungi, and ferns that thrive along this side of the loop make it feel much farther away than it is and kept us shaded and cool on a July day. The reservation system means that it’ll never get too crowded to enjoy the narrow creek-side trails. 

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

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