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West of East of Eden

An image of a railroad track receding into the woods

Tucked into the mountains of Santa Cruz County, the Garden of Eden swimming hole is a place of true summertime peace. Hidden past gravel roads, railroad tracks, and steep cliffs, this summer daydream is an ideal spot for locals looking for a break from the boardwalk or tourists seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

This natural locale has something for anyone who can make it there. While the spot is known for the beautiful, clear river, it offers more than just wading.

Something for Everyone

For the sunbather, there are both sandy and pebbled shores to recline on, with ample trees and shade to duck under when it gets too hot.

For the hiker, there are miles of riverside to explore in both directions. Take a hike in the cool water and find peace in the fresh mountain air and quiet forest.

For the risk-taker, rock outcroppings line the river, providing great jumping spots into the river below. There are several different areas to jump from, with the tallest ledge being about 25 feet tall. However, be sure to jump with care and never dive head-first.

The Garden of Eden is also a great place for families of all sizes and ages, so long as your little ones don’t wander off. There are plenty of wading pools for children to play and splash in while parents watch close by.

No matter what you do at the Garden of Eden, lasting memories are guaranteed.

Important Tips

Already hooked on this heavenly destination? Here’s what you’ll need to make your Garden of Eden experience the best it can be:

  1. Bring both sandals and hiking shoes. You’ll want the security of hiking shoes while trekking to and from the swimming hole.
  2. Bring sunscreen, a swimsuit, towels, and other comforts like a leisure book. You also might want to bring wag bags (human waste collection bags) because there are no bathrooms.
  3. Do not bring alcohol, cigarettes, dogs, or barbecue materials. All these items are strictly prohibited, and you don’t want to have your day ruined with a fine from the local park troopers.
  4. Research current water levels before cliff jumping. Although the water may seem deep enough, it’s important to be wary of underwater rocks; they may be closer to the surface than you think. During drought years, it may be better to avoid jumping and stick to swimming. No matter when you go, remember to never dive in headfirst!
  5. Pack out everything you brought with you. This includes uneaten food, plastic, trash, wag bags, and any other belongings. Go one step further by cleaning someone else’s trash and leaving the Garden of Eden better than you found it.


Getting to this sanctuary is a slightly tricky feat, but it’s well worth the effort.

Coming from Santa Cruz, drive past the south entrance to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Drive until you see the north entrance, and pull over at the parking lot with two green metal gates. Park and find the sign that says “Ox Trail.” Follow the trail on foot down the hill and turn right at the fork. Keep walking until you hit the railroad tracks. Follow these tracks for another half mile and turn at the trail marked with “No Alcoholic Beverages” and “No Campfire” signs. At the end of this small, steep trail, you’ll find the Garden of Eden, your hidden paradise.

Mo Tanner