About Pacheco Creek Falls
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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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