Berry Creek Falls

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California, USA

About Berry Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 5-6 hours

Date first visited: 2010-04-10
Date last visited: 2019-04-23

Waterfall Latitude: 37.16985
Waterfall Longitude: -122.26463

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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, we wonder how it still holds up its fame despite requiring most people at least 6 hours of fairly strenuous hiking to see it!

Big_Basin_079_04102010 - Berry Creek Falls
Berry Creek Falls

That said, the waterfall’s alluring 70ft drop possessing a photogenic character about it while surrounded by coastal redwoods certainly made it tempting enough to endure such physical demands.

Usually, famous waterfalls are easier to access in addition to possessing that beauty that makes people go out of their way to see it. However, in this instance, we definitely had to earn it!

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.

Big_Basin_108_04102010 - The Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform
The Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform

On top of that, we also saw lots banana slugs on the trail (something we were not accustomed to seeing).

We also had the option of extending our hike to experience an additional series of waterfalls (i.e. Silver Falls, Golden Falls, and the Cascades) just a short distance beyond Berry Creek Falls.

The Out-and-Back Hike to Berry Creek Falls

The main and shortest option to experience Berry Creek Falls was to do it as an 8-mile out-and-back hike from Park Headquarters (see directions below).

It’s worth noting that this waterfall could be done in a multitude of ways thanks to the network of interconnecting trails as well as a separate trailhead that mountain bikers could use to shorten the hiking from Waddell Beach.

However, we’ll only describe the out-and-back hike in this section.

Big_Basin_002_04102010 - Julie on the Redwoods Trail leading to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Julie on the Redwoods Trail leading to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Even from Park Headquarters, we had the option of taking the Dool Trail to Sunset Trail Connector, or we could also take the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail directly.

Either way, this potentially confusing network of trails around the Park Headquarters to the Sunset Connector Trail was about 1.3 miles long.

Although the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail was the most direct route, it was not an option when I re-visited this waterfall in April 2019.

This was due to flood damage that killed the section of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail between the Howard King Trail and the Sunset Connector Trail.

Once on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail beyond the Sunset Connector Trail, the hike followed along Kelly Creek in a generally downhill manner.

Big_Basin_020_04102010 - Julie on the Kelly Creek part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Julie on the Kelly Creek part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

At about 0.9 miles from the Sunset Connector Trail, I reached a sign that tracked my progress of this hike. There was no trail junction here.

At about 0.7 miles beyond the “progress sign” (i.e. a sign that let me know where I was relative to where I had been), I reached the southern end of the Timm’s Creek Trail.

It was closed during my April 2019 visit, but this trail could have allowed another way to connect the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail with the Sunset Trail.

Continuing along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, it still followed along the southern banks of West Waddell Creek (which Kelly Creek fed into at the Timm’s Creek Trail junction).

Big_Basin_Loop_444_04232019 - Another fellow hiker on the West Waddell Creek part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Another fellow hiker on the West Waddell Creek part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

At about a mile from the Timm’s Creek Trail junction, the trail started descending towards its junction with Berry Creek Falls Trail just past a footbridge near the confluence of Berry Creek and West Waddell Creek.

During the descent at one of the switchbacks, there was a rest bench with a distant view of Berry Creek Falls.

Beyond the footbridge, we took the path on the right to follow Berry Creek upstream for the final quarter-mile uphill to the lookout platform right in front of Berry Creek Falls.

When Julie and I first visited the falls, 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.

Options Beyond Berry Creek Falls

Big_Basin_Loop_394_04232019 - Approaching the Berry Creek Falls in the final climb up to its lookout platform
Approaching the Berry Creek Falls in the final climb up to its lookout platform

At this point, we could return back the way we came on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail to conclude this hike.

Since the general elevation profile of the hike was downhill on the way here, it would be mostly uphill on the way back.

We could also extend this hike to include Silver Falls, Golden Falls, and the Cascades.

Silver Falls was about 0.9 miles from the Berry Creek Falls lookout platform.

This was the way Julie and I did this excursion when we first visited back in April 2010.

Big_Basin_Loop_314_04232019 - The trail skirting by the brink of Silver Falls
The trail skirting by the brink of Silver Falls

We’ll punt the details of the other waterfall waterfalls and the hike to get to them on a separate page.

Authorities

Berry Creek Falls resides in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Big_Basin_234_04102010 - At the large car park for Big Basin Redwoods State Park near its headquarters
Big_Basin_Loop_021_04232019 - I recommend getting an early start to the Berry Creek Falls hike, but with the early start, you also get the benefit of witnessing wildlife.  You never know what you mind find in the process...
Big_Basin_005_04102010 - Julie on the narrower and undulating Skyline to the Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_052_04232019 - At a ridge near the Gazos Creek Road.  This is where the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail joins up with the Sunset Connector Trail so it's a bit of a key landmark
Big_Basin_017_04102010 - Sign warning us that we were going on a strenuous trail
Big_Basin_Loop_487_04232019 - Looking up towards the treetops of the coastal redwood trees along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_037_04102010 - Redwoods towering over Julie deep into the Skyline to the Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_473_04232019 - The 'progress sign' along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_453_04232019 - Near the Timm's Creek Trail junction with the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. Notice the fallen trees, which hinted at why they closed that connector trail during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_436_04232019 - The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail meanders among dense groves of coastal redwood trees. So even though the hike to Berry Creek Falls was long, the redwoods always kept things interesting
Big_Basin_Loop_424_04232019 - Lots of deadfalls on West Waddell Creek by the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail during my April 2019 visit. Whatever storms caused such flash flooding such that so many trees were downed, they had to have been some pretty serious storms
Big_Basin_Loop_412_04232019 - Looking back at the crossing of West Waddell Creek
Big_Basin_051_04102010 - Julie now on the Berry Creek Falls Trail with part of the waterfall seen up ahead
Big_Basin_068_04102010 - It's easy to sit here and just stare
Big_Basin_Loop_401_04232019 - This was the trail junction where the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail joined up with the Berry Creek Falls Trail
Big_Basin_084_04102010 - Getting closer to Berry Creek Falls
Big_Basin_112_04102010 - Looking down at Berry Creek Falls through some overgrowth
Big_Basin_Loop_362_04232019 - My second visit to Berry Creek Falls was in sunny weather so you can see how the lighting was affected as a result
Big_Basin_Loop_347_04232019 - There were a lot of fallen trees around Berry Creek Falls (let alone Big Basin Redwoods State Park) during my April 2019 visit.  So I'd imagine there was a good deal of trail maintenance involved to help make the hiking more comfortable
Big_Basin_Loop_418_04232019 - It was pretty much mostly uphill on the return hike along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_425_04232019 - An eroded part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_428_04232019 - Continuing the uphill climb among the coastal redwood trees on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_434_04232019 - Rock steps carved into this uphill section of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_504_04232019 - Pretty much all redwoods all the time on the return hike.  You start noticing more subtle things like blackened bark, which attested to the fire resistancy of coastal redwood trees

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Berry Creek Falls was accessible from the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters.

We drove to the Park Headquarters from San Jose or Santa Clara so we’ll describe the most direct driving directions as such.

Directions to Big Basin Redwoods State Park from Santa Clara

Sempervirens_Falls_007_04222019 - The Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters
The Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters

From Santa Clara, we’d take the US101 west to the CA-237, then we’d head west on CA-237 to the CA-85 south.

From there, we’d take the CA-85 south to the Saratoga Ave exit, then turn right onto Saratoga Ave.

In about 1.8 miles on Saratoga Ave, the street continues straight onto Big Basin Way (Hwy 9).

We’d follow Hwy 9 for a little over 13 miles to another junction. At that point, we’d leave Hwy 9 and drive onto Big Basin Way (Hwy 239).

Then, we’d follow Big Basin Way for about 8 miles to the Big Basin Park Headquarters.

Directions to Big Basin Redwoods State Park from San Jose

Sempervirens_Falls_001_04222019 - The parking lot by the Big Basin Park Headquarters
The parking lot by the Big Basin Park Headquarters

From San Jose, we could make our way to the CA-17 south (via the I-280 or I-880), and then either take the CA-85 west to Saratoga Ave or continue south on CA-17 to the Los Gatos Saratoga exit (exit 20B) for Hwy 9.

If we take the CA-85 route, then we’d follow the directions as given above to take Saratoga Ave to Hwy 9.

Otherwise, we’d just follow Hwy 9 and then follow the directions as given above.

Regardless of whether we would drive from Santa Clara or San Jose, the drive would take approximately 75 minutes or so (depending on traffic).

Note that since Big Basin Redwoods is a state park, there was a $10 (as of 2019) vehicle fee, which we had to pay and display.

For geographical context, San Jose is about 6 miles (roughly 15 minutes depending on traffic) east of Santa Clara, 32 miles (about 45 minutes) north of Santa Cruz, 48 miles (about an hour or more depending on traffic) south of San Francisco, 41 miles (about an hour or more depending on traffic) south of Oakland, 86 miles (about 90 minutes drive or longer depending on traffic) south of Napa, 120 miles (about 2 hours drive) south of Sacramento, and 340 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Starting from the top of the falls then walking down to the main lookout


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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Tagged with: big basin, redwoods, state park, santa cruz, san jose, santa clara, bay area, central coast, california, waterfall, silicon valley, skyline to the sea, kelly creek, waddell beach



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