China Hole Loop
Distance (round trip): 10 miles
Elevation Gain (round trip): 1400 feet
Description: This moderately strenuous hike takes you to the site of an old mineral springs resort and to the park's most popular swimming hole, a mile farther along. Madrone Soda Springs Resort was a small health spa that thrived during the horse and buggy era. There's not much left of the resort. The buildings and the dance pavillion were dismantled during World War II, and the wood was hauled to the Central Valley and used to build houses during a time when wood was hard to come by. Still remaining are a few concrete steps, fragments of foundation, and a stone cooler built into a hillside. China Hole is a favorite destination for hikers during late spring and early summer. The natural pool is often 20 feet wide and 7 to 8 feet deep. It has a small, sandy beach and lots of big flat boulders for picnicking, sunning, and snoozing.
Route: Starting at the trailhead close to the stop sign, follow Corral Trail to the Springs Trail junction. Take the right fork and follow Springs Trail to its end at Manzanita Point Road. Go right on the road and keep going till you reach the Madrone Soda Springs trailhead (across from Manzanita Point group campsite 7). Go right on the Madrone Soda Springs Trail, and watch your step as you hike down the trail. It's steep and slippery in places. When you reach the creekbed, you've reached the site of the old resort. You might want to stay a while, look around, and picture the resort in its heyday. Continue along Madrone Soda Springs Creek on Mile Trail, which crosses the creekbed 12 times (something to consider during winter and early spring when the creek might be flowing.) You'll want to be on the lookout for Poison Oak, which flourishes along Mile Trail in all seasons. When you get to China Hole Trail, you can either head back up or go on about a hundred feet to China Hole, a fine place to picnic and watch birds. On your return trip, take China Hole Trail back up to Manzanita Point and then follow Manzanita Point Road to the junction with Forest Trail and Springs Trail. At that point, you can continue on the road or take one of the trails back to the visitor center.
Extras: Before you start out or after you return, you might want to ask someone in the Visitor Center to show you the binder with photographs taken at the Madrone Soda Springs resort during its heyday.