Pacheco Creek Falls

Novato / Pacheco Valle Preserve, California, USA

About Pacheco Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: about 1 mile total
Suggested Time: allow at least 1 hour

Date first visited: 2022-02-26
Date last visited: 2022-02-26

Waterfall Latitude: 38.05097
Waterfall Longitude: -122.55619

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Pacheco Creek Falls was really a series of small and highly seasonal waterfalls draining a limited catchment beneath the Big Rock Ridge within the Pacheco Valle Preserve backing a suburb towards the southern end of Novato.

Of the “neighborhood waterfalls” that I’ve visited in Marin County, this one perhaps had the least developed trails and perhaps the most adventure, as a result.

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_024_02262022 - One of the waterfalls that made up the Pacheco Creek Falls
One of the waterfalls that made up the Pacheco Creek Falls

I tend to refer to most of Marin County Waterfalls as “neighborhood waterfalls” because many of them are situated and/or accessed through residential areas.

With Pacheco Creek Falls, I was able to access its trail from the end of Pacheco Creek Drive, which itself was a residential road (see directions below).

In any case, I noticed three potential spots where there could be modest-sized waterfalls (mostly 5ft-15ft tall with one side one that’s possibly as high as 30ft or so), but it’s hard to tell when there’s no waterflow as was the case during my February 2022 visit.

Experiencing The Pacheco Creek Waterfalls – The Left Fork

From the cul-de-sac at the end of the Pacheco Creek Drive, I hiked for about 0.1-mile before the trail reached a fork.

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_002_02262022 - The start of the Pacheco Creek Trail at the end of Pacheco Creek Drive
The start of the Pacheco Creek Trail at the end of Pacheco Creek Drive

At this junction, there were streams or drainages coming from each of the paths in the fork.

I initially kept left because that drainage seemed to have a little bit more water, and it ultimately led me another 0.1-mile to a small 5ft waterfall that was trickling during my visit.

The trail became narrower and progressively sketchier, especially since there seemed to be numerous false trails going higher up the steep hillsides as well as beyond the waterfall.

However, such worn use-trails definitely wore on the landscape there, and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before erosion takes over and you’ll have a landslide here.

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_008_02262022 - The small, trickling waterfall that I encountered on the left fork of Pacheco Creek
The small, trickling waterfall that I encountered on the left fork of Pacheco Creek

By the way, these informal trails were very sketchy because they essentially clung to the steep hillsides, and it got to the point that I wasn’t so sure it would be wise to use them.

Experiencing The Pacheco Creek Waterfalls – The Right Fork

So I backtracked to the fork that was about 0.1-mile from the end of Pacheco Creek Drive, and then I followed its narrow use-trail.

It primarily skirted alongside the mostly drier and seasonal creek while ducking under one fallen tree (or at least one tree whose branches grew really close to the hillside) to continue.

Eventually, the trail rose and clung to a narrow ledge with a view of a maybe 10ft rock face which was where I’d imagine the most photographed of the Pacheco Creek Falls would be flowing (if it flows).

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_021_02262022 - Context of the narrow and sketchy scrambling trail leading to the top of perhaps the main Pacheco Creek Falls on the right fork
Context of the narrow and sketchy scrambling trail leading to the top of perhaps the main Pacheco Creek Falls on the right fork

There was a very narrow use-trail that skirted the dropoffs and led to the top of this rock face for a closer look at the falls.

I was able to make this scramble, and then continue a little further upstream where there was another small waterfall on the same stream as well as a side rock face to the right along the way.

I’d imagine that side waterfall (which was probably around 30ft or more) would only flow under very wet conditions, which would make getting to this spot a bit sketchier given the likelihood of soil erosion and muddiness.

Indeed, despite the short distances involved (it’s probably 0.6-mile in total to take in both forks and the 3 waterfalls I’m reporting here), it’s definitely not an easy walk in the manner that the other Novato Waterfalls were (like Buck Gulch Falls and Ken Harth Falls).

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_011_02262022 - I noticed this turkey while briefly doing the Pacheco Creek Trail
I noticed this turkey while briefly doing the Pacheco Creek Trail

Still, if the timing’s right, it is one of the lesser known and not-as-well-visited waterfalls in the area and worth it under the right conditions.

Overall, I spent roughly 30 minutes or so for this excursion, but I easily could have lingered here longer had there been more water in Pacheco Creek.

Authorities

The Pacheco Creek Falls reside in the Pacheco Valle Preserve near Novato in Marin County, California. It is administered by the Marin County Parks. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_004_02262022 - Early on in the hike, I already had to make a decision about which fork I should take to pursue the waterfalls
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_005_02262022 - I had thought it was a good sign for there to be any presence of water in Pacheco Creek
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_006_02262022 - Following the left fork, which skirted by this trickling intermediate waterfall, which was starting to confirm my worst fears about the state of the Pacheco Creek Falls
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_013_02262022 - The narrow use-trail following the right fork of Pacheco Creek on the way to this fork's waterfalls
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_016_02262022 - The narrow trail climbing and clinging to the slopes on its way to the waterfalls
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_018_02262022 - Angled view at the dry Pacheco Creek Falls on the right fork of its creek
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_019_02262022 - Full context of the Pacheco Creek Falls as seen from a narrow use-trail across its dry stream
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_023_02262022 - Looking up at these rocks that might be able to harbor waterfalls above the first of the falls I witnessed on the right fork
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_024_02262022 - Upstream from the first of the Pacheco Creek Falls on the right fork was this other waterfall that did have a trickle of water
Pacheco_Creek_Falls_026_02262022 - Ending my brief Pacheco Creek Trail experience as I approached Pacheco Creek Drive


Since I drove to the Pacheco Creek Falls access from downtown Sonoma to the northeast, I’ll first describe the driving directions from there.

Then, I’ll describe the driving directions from San Francisco since I’d imagine the majority of visitors would likely be taking that approach from the south.

Approach From The North

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_001_02262022 - Context of the Pacheco Creek Trail and the nearest residence at the end of Pacheco Creek Drive
Context of the Pacheco Creek Trail and the nearest residence at the end of Pacheco Creek Drive

From downtown Sonoma, I’d first drive south on Broadway (Hwy 12) towards its junction with the Hwy 121 after about 3.7 miles.

Then, I’d turn right and continue on Hwy 121 for the next 0.9-mile before turning left to continue on Hwy 121 and stay on it for another 6.6 miles.

The Hwy 121 eventually intersected with the Hwy 37, where I turned right and followed this road for 7.3 miles towards the 101 Freeway.

Once on the freeway, I’d then get off after about 2.3 miles at the Alameda del Prado exit.

At the off-ramp, I then turned left onto Alameda del Prado, following it for about 0.8-mile before turning right onto Pacheco Creek Drive.

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_028_02262022 - Context of street signs asking people to park in designated bays along Pacheco Creek Road
Context of street signs asking people to park in designated bays along Pacheco Creek Road

I then followed this residential street for about a half-mile to its end, where the Pacheco Creek Trail began.

Overall, this drive would take about 30-40 minutes.

Approach From The South

From San Francisco, I’d make my way to the 101 North taking the Golden Gate Bridge and then continuing for about 18 miles before taking the Nave Drive off-ramp (exit 458).

Once at the light, I’d then turn left onto Alameda del Prado, as described above, and follow the same local directions to get to the desired trailhead at the end of Pacheco Creek Road.

Overall, this drive shouldn’t take that much longer than 30 minutes (barring traffic, of course).

Pacheco_Creek_Falls_027_02262022 - Looking back at the end of Pacheco Creek Road and the trailhead for Pacheco Creek Falls
Looking back at the end of Pacheco Creek Road and the trailhead for Pacheco Creek Falls

Finally, it’s worth noting that there are numerous signs along Pacheco Creek Drive indicating that parking is only allowed in the parking bays.

By this, I presume that they mean the paved carve-outs along the side of the residential street for parallel parking.

Even though I did notice some cars parked on unpaved street shoulders, especially near the end of the Pacheco Creek Drive near the trailhead, I doubt those are sanctioned spots.

I guess it’s just a matter of the residents here making a call if they choose to enforce the parking bay rules here (or if some of the locals engage in these parking practices themselves).

For geographical context, Novato was 21 miles (roughly 30 minutes drive) southwest of Sonoma, 27 miles (about 30 minutes drive) south of Santa Rosa, 29 miles (over 30 minutes drive) north of San Francisco, 73 miles (under 90 minutes drive) north of San Jose, and 77 miles (under 90 minutes drive) southwest of Sacramento.

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Short sweep showing one of the waterfalls which was actually trickling


A separate fork of Pacheco Creek revealing a rock wall that would have contained a waterfall in wetter times


Upstream to downstream approach showing other waterfalls that would be flowing in wetter times before going downstream for a look at the first of this trio of falls

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Tagged with: novato, pacheco valle, marin county, bay area waterfall



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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