Berry Creek Falls

Big Basin Redwoods State Park / Santa Cruz County, California, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 4.5
Berry Creek Falls

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INTRODUCTION

Berry Creek Falls is perhaps the most well-known waterfall this close to Silicon Valley.

While the falls deservedly gets lots of photo clicks and literature devoted to it (thanks to its alluring 70ft drop while surrounded by coastal redwoods and possessing a character that makes it very photogenic), we wonder how it still holds up its fame despite requiring most people at least 6 hours of fairly strenuous hiking to see it! Usually, famous waterfalls are easier to access in addition to possessing that beauty that makes people go out of their way to see.

Even with that said, Julie and I not only loved this waterfall, but we also enjoyed the hike to get here. Sure it was pretty long and tiring, but we were delighted with the hike as the constant presence of coastal redwood trees made us realize that we were in a pretty special place. So we didn't mind the sore limbs and joints after the hike was done. On top of that, we also saw lots banana slugs on the trail (something we were not accustomed to seeing) as well as an additional series of waterfalls (i.e. Silver Falls and Golden Cascade) just a short distance beyond Berry Creek Falls.

Banana slug on the trail Although this trail could be done in a multitude of ways (including a long loop hike) thanks to the network of interconnecting trails as well as a separate trailhead that mountain bikers could use to shorten the amount of hiking to the waterfalls, we only did it as an out-and-back hike. The signage suggested that we only hiked 3.9 miles each way or 7.8 miles round trip, but Julie and I swore we hiked for far longer than that, especially considering we spent nearly 7 hours on the trail (though this also included all the rest stops and photo taking). We heavily contemplated doing the entire Waterfalls Loop, which I've read could be as little as 11 miles (according to Bay Area Hiker) or as much as 13 miles (according to our guidebook).

Our hike started off at the large parking lot nearby the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters. This was said to be California's oldest state park (though Yosemite National Park was declared a state park in 1864 before becoming a National park in 1890) so the park was quite busy around this wide park-like area. We followed one of the connecting trails that meandered amongst some giant coastal redwood trees before connecting with the Skyline to the Sea Trail.

Then, we followed the Skyline to the Sea Trail for the next couple of hours. We chose not to take any of the connectors to the Sunset Trail near the start of this stretch, nor did we take the Trimms Creek Trail, which also connected with the Sunset Trail probably nearly 3 miles into this stretch. It climbed for a bit (said to be 250ft gain) before gradually dropping towards Kelly Creek (which would become a long, gradual climb on the return).

Berry Creek Falls and the lookout platform The whole time we would see the old growth redwood trees that the park was known for, but the combination of the serenity and the length of the trail also allowed us to start paying attention to the ubiquitous banana slugs that we diligently tried to avoid trampling.

At nearly 4.3 miles into the hike (according to distances stated in Ann Marie Brown's book), we reached a junction where the Skyline to the Sea Trail and the Berry Creek Falls Trail intersected. It was here that we noticed some mountain bikers coming the other way on the Skyline to the Sea Trail, and we suspected that the trail must have been bike friendly from Waddell Beach to this junction. However, bikers wishing to continue would have to lock their bikes and hike because neither the Berry Creek Trail nor the stretch of the Skyline to the Sea Trail that we had just taken looked doable with mountain bikes.

So we left the Skyline to the Sea Trail and turned right to go onto the Berry Creek Falls Trail. After about a few more minutes of hiking, we were able to catch glimpses of the impressive waterfall itself. And as we got closer, we noticed a bench where we could see most of the falls through an opening between redwood trees.

The trail continued descending gently towards an overlook deck with a full view of the pretty 70ft waterfall. The lookout deck was full of people, which attested to the popularity of this trail despite the moderate amount of hiking it took to get here. Since I didn't bring a tripod, I did my best to utilize the wooden railings to stabilize the camera for those obligatory long exposure photos, which this waterfall was well-suited for.

Turning back from here to the car park via the route that we took (i.e. Skyline to the Sea Trail) was about 4.4 miles or so. However, beyond the lookout deck, the trail ascended up a pair of switchbacks before hugging a ledge overlooking Berry Creek Falls. Continuing further, the views would eventually be blocked by overgrowth and that marked the next stretch of hiking to reach Silver Falls and Golden Cascade in just under another mile or so. We've devoted a separate page for those waterfalls since we had quite a bit more to say about these waterfalls as well.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Julie dwarfed by one of the tall coastal redwood treesJulie dwarfed by one of the tall coastal redwood trees
Lots of redwood trees towering over the Skyline to the Sea TrailLots of redwood trees towering over the Skyline to the Sea Trail
Another look at Berry Creek Falls with part of a redwood tree above itAnother look at Berry Creek Falls with part of a redwood tree above it
At the large car park for Big Basin Redwoods State Park near its headquartersAt the large car park for Big Basin Redwoods State Park near its headquarters

Julie on the wide, fenced Redwoods Trail while seeking out the Skyline to the Sea TrailJulie on the wide, fenced Redwoods Trail while seeking the Skyline to the Sea Trail

Julie on the narrower and undulating Skyline to the Sea TrailJulie on the narrower and undulating Skyline to the Sea Trail. Note that she's still surrounded by tall coastal redwoods

Sign warning us that we were going on a strenuous trailSign warning us that we were going on a strenuous trail. No kidding!

Julie now on the long Kelly Creek part of the Skyline to the Sea TrailJulie now on the long Kelly Creek part of the Skyline to the Sea Trail

Redwoods towering over Julie deep into the Skyline to the Sea TrailRedwoods towering over Julie deep into the Skyline to the Sea Trail

Julie now on the Berry Creek Falls Trail with part of the waterfall seen up aheadJulie now on the Berry Creek Falls Trail with part of the waterfall seen up ahead

It's easy to sit here and just stareIt's easy to sit here and just stare

Getting closer to Berry Creek FallsGetting closer to the falls

Looking down at Berry Creek Falls through some overgrowthLooking down at the falls through some overgrowth from the trail going beyond the lookout platform


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Fixated on the falls from the distant overlook with lots of wind rustling the surrounding foliage


Left to right sweep from the brink of the falls ending at the lookout platform


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We drove to the Park Headquarters from San Jose. We began by exiting off the I-280 at Saratoga Ave. Then, we took Saratoga Ave south becoming Hwy 9 past the town of Saratoga, and then continuing on road 238 (Big Basin Way), which twists and turns as it heads right to the park headquarters at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This drive was about 34 miles in length and took us a little over an hour.

I'm sure there were other ways to get there from Santa Cruz or other parts of Saratoga, but that was the most straightforward way we could think of since we were staying within San Jose at Moorpark.

Note that since Berry Creek Falls is in a state park, there was a $10 (as of 2010) vehicle fee, which we had to pay and display.

Finally, for additional context, San Jose was 56 miles (over an hour drive) south of San Francisco or 341 miles (about 5.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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