Five Finger Falls in Nisene Marks State Park

Posted: September 9th, 2018



Five Finger Falls is a waterfall located in The Forest of Nisene Marks. Niesen Marks is a state park within Santa Cruz, California. Five Finger Falls is arguable the best waterfall in the park. The fall offers a small, cold water pool beneath it which allows hikers to take a refreshing dip.

Niesen Marks park is frequented by mountain bikers and trail runners. Even on some of the hiking trails, you can find mountain bikers quickly riding downhill despite signs for no bikes. It's important to always be aware of the bikers on the Fire Creek Road but, also on the hiking trails, to prevent an accident.

I made it to Niesen Marks from San Francisco, CA in one day by renting a car at 7:00AM and starting on the trail at about 9:30AM. Due to a wrong turn while hiking and some time spent droning, the hike took me 10 hours to complete. I returned to San Francisco at around 9:30PM.

During the hike, I droned, which added time. See the edited Five Finger Falls video here.


The parking lot for the trail is the Porter Picnic Area Parking Lot. This is at the end of the park. From here, make your way up Aptos Creek Fire Road. As of September 8th, 2018, the normal route of taking Aptos Creek Trail off of the fire road is closed due to a landslide. Accessing the waterfall is more difficult now because of this detour, it requires taking Aptos Creek Fire Road to Big Slide Trail which reconnects with Aptos Creek Trail. It is easy to take a wrong turn on Big Slide Trail near White's Lagoon and end up heading to a different segment of Aptos Creek Fire Road.

The park ranger indicated that the detoured route is approximately 14 miles round trip. It is important to stay on the trail at all times to prevent backtracking. There were no signs off of the fire road for the trail until reaching Aptos Creek Trail.

Additional Information

  • The park costs money to enter if you are parking inside, it was $8 (cash, they don't take credit) as of September 8th, 2018.
  • Bring bug spray as there are mosquitoes on this trail.
  • There is a small risk of mountain lions so make noise if hiking alone.
  • Deer frequently roam the park.
  • See the Nisen Marks trail map here.

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