The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

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About The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Stretching across five different habitats and nearly 3,000 feet in elevation, the Forest of Nisene Marks, with its name of faint biblical and literary connotations, holds endless amounts of mystery in the form of breathtaking scenery and spellbinding groves of redwood, expanses of grasslands, scrub and chaparral. It is also the location of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, named after the mountain of the same name in the park. There is also a long and complicated history to the forest, which was nearly extinguished through logging but was saved through reforestation efforts and continues to be a place where past and present meet. All the more precious because of its near brush with extinction, it makes a wander through the woods all the more special.

Campgrounds in Nisene Marks

West Ridge Trail Camp
Aja
Aja: bug spray. we had a magical hike over father's day weekend and ended at the campsite where we had...

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Nisene Marks
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Nisene Marks
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Nisene Marks
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Nisene Marks
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
7 Reviews
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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

Some of the trails aren’t marked very well, so be sure you know exactly where you are going, and definitely ask a ranger for specific directions.

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Hipcamper Aja

bug spray. we had a magical hike over father's day weekend and ended at the campsite where we had forgotten not only our tent poles, but our bug spray as well. the camp, confusingly, as it is nowhere close to water, is mosquito central. bug spray is essential!

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

Trail runners: the fire road is an awesome 13 miles through beautiful woods, making it a great spot to get some exercise.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

If you are looking for an easy, quiet hike, check out the historical loop. It’s about 5.6 miles, and gives a nice tour of the landscape.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

It gets dark and chilly in the early evening, so bring layers.

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Hipcamper Hipcamper
Hipcamper

There aren’t a ton of bathrooms in the park (read: none) so plan accordingly.

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Hipcamper Christine

I live here, My writing retreat is a neighbor. This is my faveorite neighbor.

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History of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

The serene trails within The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park give scant hint of the redwood forest’s turbulent natural and human history. For centuries, the jagged terrain of these 10,000 acres saved the original trees from loggers and settlers. Today the second- and third-growth forest canopy in earthquake country shades a recreational oasis with 30 miles of maintained trails and roads for hiking, biking and running.

The local first people were the Costanoans (now known as Ohlone). The native people harvested resources on the edges of the forest, but little evidence exists that they ever lived among these deep redwoods. Two Mexican land grants to the Castro family in 1833 and 1844 partially form the boundaries of today’s park. Shortly after California became a state in 1850,
loggers built wooden skids and used oxen teams to drag smaller harvested trees
for “split stuff” and tanbark. The forest’s more reachable redwoods were milled during the Gold Rush building boom, but lumber interests found the steep canyons impenetrable for logging giant redwoods.

In 1880, however, the Southern Pacific Railway (SP) arrived in nearby Monterey. SP financed the purchase of tree-filled Upper Aptos Canyon, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company and the Loma Prieta Railway. Chinese laborers cut and graded the rail line seven miles up the canyon. By 1883, standard-gauge railway tracks had been built to haul the huge redwood logs to mills.

The 1880s cost of building this railroad, part of today’s main Fire Road, was estimated at $50,000 per mile. The Loma Prieta Mill became the largest in the 19th-century Santa Cruz Mountains until disastrous landslides during San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake paused logging efforts. Reforestation began when the lumber company planted 50 acres of redwood and non-native eucalyptus seedlings. Logging resumed from 1909 until 1924, when most of Loma Prieta’s mill was dismantled and abandoned—after processing 140 million board feet of redwood.

The Marks family of Salinas deeded more than 9,000 acres to the State for use as a public park in 1963. Named for matriarch Nisene (a Danish name) Marks, the gift deed specified that the “natural preserve” be used for camping, hiking and nature study. Other donations have increased park acreage to nearly 10,000 acres. The Forest of Nisene Marks honors forest regeneration and preservation efforts.