Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Family Adventure: Uvas Canyon County Park (Morgan Hill)

Add this to the list of glowing reviews of Uvas Canyon County Park in Morgan Hill! We had a WONDERFUL time there yesterday -- one of our best outdoor adventures as a family, ever!

Toddler X loved the huge variety of toddler-accessible nature fun -- rocks to examine, logs to crawl under, boulders to scale and jump from, moss to touch, and plants to identify (the numbered markers on the Waterfall Loop were a Toddler X dream come true). And then, of course, the waterfalls, the paths, the bridges. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

So, tips and thoughts:
  • Directions on the website are pretty straightforward, though be aware that distances listed may be deceiving, as a scant 2.2 miles can take a while on a somewhat twisty road. 
  • Parking is $6 per car. Lot is moderately sized and was pretty empty when we arrived around 10:30, but was packed when we left at 1:30, with people circling and waiting for spots. I'm not sure if there's a spillover lot or where. 
  • Clean bathrooms are available right at the parking lot, as are plenty of picnic tables and an amphitheater/stage that Toddler X enjoyed playing on.
  • The logical trail for a family with a toddler is the Waterfall Loop, which splits off into two paths just above the parking lot (see sign above). We took the one to the right (the one labeled Nature Trail) on our way up, which was nice because the numbered markers are in order if you go that way. 
Toddler X's favorite nature trail marker --
watch out for that Sticky Monkey plant!
  • We started off with the stroller, but almost immediately hit a rock staircase up to a bridge that made us change our mind. Overall, while most of the trail is stroller accessible, I'd probably recommend this outing most for families with toddlers who will walk or who use carriers. On the way back, down the other side of the creek, there are several narrow or very rocky points and one creek crossing, so a stroller may not be advisable (though a rugged one might be doable). We were happy that we put ours back, as with the lure of the next numbered post always in mind, Toddler X managed to walk the whole thing.
The steps that made us re-think the stroller plan.
A very minor stream crossing on the return trip
down the loop.
  • The path is always near the creek, which is delightful because of the shade and peaceful noise, but there are some trail edges where a long plummet would be possible. Toddler X -- normally a runner, and not the best at hearing "Stop!" -- was pretty amenable to bring shooed toward the hillside side of the trail, but I did feel like I always had to be on alert. The trail is plenty wide, though, so it wasn't a huge worry. 
  • On the way up to the falls, the path is moderately inclined -- not steep, but far from flat. It's a very walkable pressed dirt. Toddler X and I were both fascinated with the geologic formations along the side of the trail. 
  • There are several falls visible from the trail, starting VERY close to the parking lot, making this a great hike for people who are unsure how long their toddler can hold up. No matter what, you know you'll see *something*!

  • Black Falls is worth the small turnoff from the main trail, though you'll have to carry your toddler through a couple spots on the very short trail. The falls were beautiful and peaceful, with a nice little spot to sit and contemplate for a bit...at least, until your toddler is ready to move again. :)
  • There's a great spot for a picnic at Myrtle Flats, right near the top of the waterfall loop. There's only one table, which we were lucky enough to snag because we arrived early in the day, but there is also a nice flat area if you want to set out a blanket. 

  • On the way back, we used the path on the far side of the creek (hence, the loop). It was fun being closer to creek level, but the trail was rockier and narrower, and at the end you have to do a relatively simple stream crossing (just hopping on two rocks). Maybe not the best plan if you do bring a stroller. 
  • While I've heard that the waterfalls are most impressive after a rain, I learned that the streams (and therefore falls) are actually spring-fed, not rain fed, so they do run year-round -- rain just swells them, and creates additional rivulets in otherwise dry washes. However, I've got to say that I might prefer it a while post-rain like it was yesterday. The mud was limited, the trail was stable, and I wasn't all that concerned about Toddler X slipping into the creek. So don't be deterred from going by the lack of recent rains!
Upper Falls -- great spot for a picture!
  • Speaking of falling in the creek, you're not supposed to wade. Good luck telling that to a toddler mid-summer. :)
  • Dogs are allowed on leash. We saw tons of them -- and hilariously a lot of small, "yippy" dogs in sweaters. If they can make the hike, your toddler can. 
  • Obviously, keep toddlers away from the edges of the path (there are some steep drops to the water) and watch them on bridges (a few have large gaps between the bottom railing and the bridge surface). 
Keep an eye on young toddlers over the bridges.
  • For flora, I saw lots of mushrooms, including a crazily cool (but possibly dangerous) bright yellow one. Obviously keep your kiddos away. In the summer, poison oak is also apparently rampant.
Pretty cool to look at, probably best not to touch.
  • Re: the fauna, there are signs warning of rattlesnakes and mountain lions, and there are almost certainly ticks as well. The main paths are well-traveled and you almost certainly won't encounter a mountain lion in daylight hours in such a populated place, but you all know what happened at the Picchetti Winery trails last year, so always keep your toddler within a few feet of you, and never let him or her run off on a trail ahead of the group. Familiarize yourself with the suggested response if you do see a lion (generally, pick up kids, look and sound "big" (open up jackets, raise arms, hold sticks), and back away, don't turn), just for safety's sake. 

Overall, this gets 5 stars from the X family as far as toddler nature outings go. It's a bit of a hike from San Jose because of the back roads, but totally worth it.

Wishing you happy toddling at this local gem!

** This was originally a post on my Facebook page. To see the post and reader responses, click here.

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