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 in Big Basin State Park.

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_099_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!

Nevertheless, Julie and I not only loved this waterfall, but we also enjoyed the hike to get here.

Big_Basin_118_04102010 - Context of Julie being towered over by majestic coastal redwood trees on the trail to Berry Creek Falls
Context of Julie being towered over by majestic coastal redwood trees on the trail to Berry Creek Falls

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).

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.

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

In order to keep this write-up from getting too wordy, I created a separate write-up to address those waterfalls.

Berry Creek Falls Trail Description – the out-and-back hike to the 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.

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

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

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.

Then, 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.

Big_Basin_Loop_453_04232019 - Context of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail skirting alongside West Waddell Creek
Context of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail skirting alongside West Waddell Creek

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).

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.

Big_Basin_079_04102010 - View of Berry Creek Falls from the rest bench on the descent leading to the lookout deck at its base
View of Berry Creek Falls from the rest bench on the descent leading to the lookout deck at its base

When Julie and I first visited the falls, the lookout deck was full of people.

This attested to the popularity of the trail despite the moderate amount of hiking it took to get to Berry Creek Falls.

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.

Berry Creek Falls Trail Description – options beyond Berry Creek Falls

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

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

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 near Santa Cruz, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Big_Basin_Loop_002_04232019 - With my early start to my April 2019 hike to Berry Creek Falls as well as Silver Falls and Golden Cascade, I made sure that I'd get parking space as well as cool temperatures and comfortable hiking before things would start to heat up later in the day
Big_Basin_Loop_004_04232019 - Approaching one of the footbridges as I pursued a counterclockwise loop taking in the Sunset Trail combined with the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail encompassing Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_006_04232019 - Following the Dool Trail as I looked for the Sunset Trail en route to the Berry Creek Falls on my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_010_04232019 - Hiking among tall coastal redwood trees in pursuit of the Sunset Trail while briefly going along the Dool Trail en route to Berry Creek Falls in a long counterclockwise loop in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_014_04232019 - Reaching the next trail junction between the Dool Trail and the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail en route to Berry Creek Falls in a long counterclockwise loop hike in April 2019
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 like what I saw here during my April 2019 visit...
Big_Basin_Loop_028_04232019 - Looking back at the morning sun starting to penetrate the forest canopy as I continued to pursue the Sunset Trail en route to Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_033_04232019 - Another look at a squirrel holding a nut with both of its 'hands' as it was about to have a morning meal as seen during my April 2019 hike to Berry Creek Falls
Big_Basin_Loop_047_04232019 - Continuing with the hike towards the Sunset Trail en route to Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 excursion
Big_Basin_Loop_049_04232019 - Looking up towards the treetops of the coastal redwood trees near a ridge where I was about to junction with the Sunset Trail during my April 2019 hike
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_Loop_057_04232019 - Starting on the Sunset Trail part of the hike to Berry Creek Falls as I was going past this sign warning that I'd need 6 hours to complete the hike in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_067_04232019 - Continuing on the Sunset Trail past this trail junction en route to Berry Creek Falls in an counterclockwise loop as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_068_04232019 - The Sunset Trail continuing to meander between tall coastal redwood trees en route to Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_095_04232019 - The Sunset Trail meandering past this tiny waterfall at the bottom of the initial descent of this upper part of the counterclockwise loop hike taking in Berry Creek Falls as well as Silver Falls and Golden Cascade in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_106_04232019 - Hiking past this very muddy section of the Sunset Trail near one of the trail junctions that would have connected to the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail at the bottom of the loop during my counterclockwise wide loop hike from Sunset Trail to Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail via Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_107_04232019 - Crossing a bridge over Berry Creek en route to the Golden Cascade and Silver Falls as well as Berry Creek Falls in a counterclockwise direction during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_114_04232019 - Dealing with more mud and mosquitos as I continued past the bridge over Berry Creek en route to the Golden Cascade and Silver Falls via the Sunset Trail in a counterclockwise manner in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_123_04232019 - Looking up at a coastal redwood tree with another one where it seemed like it lost half its height as seen along the Sunset Trail during my April 2019 loop hike taking in Berry Creek Falls
Big_Basin_Loop_184_04232019 - Checking out a trio of wildflowers in bloom along the Berry Creek Falls Trail as I went in a counterclockwise loop on my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_188_04232019 - Looking towards some lizard basking in the sun on a fallen log along the Berry Creek Falls Trail as I went in a counterclockwise loop in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_194_04232019 - Looking back at where the Berry Creek Falls Trail left the Sunset Trail for good as I was pretty much hiking along Berry Creek down to the waterfalls during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_200_04232019 - Descending alongside the Golden Cascade en route to Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 loop hike
Big_Basin_Loop_230_04232019 - Looking back at the Golden Cascade en route to Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_233_04232019 - Descending alongside more of the Golden Cascades en route to Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_234_04232019 - Looking back at the context of the Berry Creek Falls Trail alongside part of the Golden Cascade during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_268_04232019 - Looking back at more of the descent that I made alongside the Golden Cascades en route to Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_304_04232019 - Looking back at the context of the descent alongside the Silver Falls en route to Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 loop hike
Big_Basin_Loop_297_04232019 - Looking towards the Silver Falls, which was another one of the waterfalls on the Berry Creek Falls Trail towards Berry Creek Falls as part of my counterclockwise loop hike in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_328_04232019 - More redwood hiking between Silver Falls and Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 loop hike
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_351_04232019 - Finally making it to the lookout platform for Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
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_373_04232019 - Looking back at the continuation of the Berry Creek Falls Trail from the Berry Creek Falls Lookout during my April 2019 counterclockwise loop hike
Big_Basin_Loop_377_04232019 - Context of the Berry Creek Falls Lookout Deck as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_386_04232019 - Looking up at a shadowy Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 visit
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 as I was now on the lower part of the long loop hike in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_402_04232019 - Looking back at the context of the rest bench with an overgrown view of Berry Creek Falls from the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_405_04232019 - Looking towards Berry Creek Falls from the rest bench by the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail during my April 2019 long loop hike
Big_Basin_Loop_410_04232019 - Now following the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail back towards Park Headquarters after having had my fill of the Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_412_04232019 - Looking back at the crossing of West Waddell Creek on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail en route to Park Headquarters during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_417_04232019 - Looking back at some giant fallen coastal redwood trees on West Waddell Creek during my return hike along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_418_04232019 - It was pretty much mostly uphill on the return hike along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
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_425_04232019 - An eroded part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail that might have been damaged during the storms that must have flooded or really impacted this part of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_428_04232019 - Continuing the uphill climb among the coastal redwood trees on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_434_04232019 - Rock steps carved into this uphill section of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail as seen during my April 2019 hike
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 during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_444_04232019 - Looking back at this fellow hiking amongst the redwoods along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_454_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_457_04232019 - Looking back at an interesting section where the trail workers cut door-like passages through fallen redwood trees along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_461_04232019 - An Alternate Trail that was closed as the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail was near its junction with the Sunset Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_473_04232019 - The 'progress sign' along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail as I was getting close to finishing the long loop hike encompassing Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_487_04232019 - Looking up towards the treetops of the coastal redwood trees along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail towards the end of my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_504_04232019 - Pretty much all redwoods all the time on the return hike in April 2019.  You start noticing more subtle things like blackened bark, which attested to the fire resistancy of coastal redwood trees
Big_Basin_Loop_506_04232019 - Towards the end of my long loop hike encompassing Berry Creek Falls in April 2019, I was accompanied by this fellow who chatted with me about some of the hikes in this area
Big_Basin_004_04102010 - Julie checking out one of the coastal redwood trees nearby the parking lot by the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters in April 2010
Big_Basin_005_04102010 - Julie on the narrower and undulating Skyline to the Sea Trail in April 2010. Note that she's still surrounded by tall coastal redwoods
Big_Basin_017_04102010 - Sign warning us that we were going on a strenuous trail towards Berry Creek Falls as seen in April 2010
Big_Basin_026_04102010 - Context of Julie on part of the Sunset Trail with a banana slug crawling across it during our visit in April 2010
Big_Basin_037_04102010 - Redwoods towering over Julie deep into the Skyline to the Sea Trail during our April 2010 visit
Big_Basin_046_04102010 - Following along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail during our hike in April 2010
Big_Basin_051_04102010 - Julie now on the Berry Creek Falls Trail with part of the waterfall seen up ahead during our April 2010 visit
Big_Basin_068_04102010 - It's easy to sit here and just stare during our April 2010 visit to Berry Creek Falls as an out-and-back hike
Big_Basin_084_04102010 - Approaching the lookout deck right in front of Berry Creek Falls during our April 2010 visit, where we had better lighting and better flow than on our April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_092_04102010 - Frontal long exposure look at the Berry Creek Falls when we first saw it back in April 2010
Big_Basin_112_04102010 - Looking down at Berry Creek Falls through some overgrowth from the trail going beyond the lookout platform as seen in April 2010
Big_Basin_164_04102010 - During our first time at Berry Creek Falls in April 2010 we actually went further to Silver Falls
Big_Basin_170_04102010 - Julie climbing higher than the brink of the Silver Falls during our out-and-back Berry Creek Falls hike in April 2010
Big_Basin_183_04102010 - Julie checking out one of the Golden Cascades in context with the trail as seen in April 2010
Big_Basin_219_04102010 - This part of the Golden Cascade was our turnaround point of our long out-and-back hike encompassing Berry Creek Falls in April 2010
Big_Basin_233_04102010 - Going across this footbridge during our return hike from the Berry Creek Falls in April 2010

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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

Big_Basin_234_04102010 - The busy parking area at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters
The busy parking area at 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.

Then, 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 which point we’d leave Hwy 9 and drive onto Big Basin Way (Hwy 239).

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

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

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.

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

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


Deliberate bottom up sweep of the falls from the lookout platform right in front of the falls


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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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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