Salmon Creek Falls

Big Sur / Los Padres National Forest / Gorda, California, USA

About Salmon Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 1/2 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2001-03-31
Date last visited: 2018-11-16

Waterfall Latitude: 35.81612
Waterfall Longitude: -121.35661

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Salmon Creek Falls is another one of those must-see waterfalls when we’re out and about touring the Big Sur Coast.

Not only was this falls gushing with reliable flow (at least in the Spring), but dropped over 100ft in height, and it had a memorable shape in that its main plunge consisted of a pair of conjoining segments.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_019_03202010 - Salmon Creek Falls with healthy flow in the Spring
Salmon Creek Falls with healthy flow in the Spring

Moreover, this was one of those free roadside waterfalls that compelled us to pull over and get a closer look (especially if we happened to be headed south on Hwy 1).

It was either that, or we’d be compelled to pull over just to satisfy our curiosity as to why so many vehicles were parked here (especially if we headed north on Hwy 1).

Salmon Creek Falls – increasing in popularity

Julie and I swear that Salmon Creek Falls had been increasing in popularity over the years because we could still remember when we were one of a handful of people here (often times having it to ourselves).

But on a visit in March 2010, it was crowded here with some people chilling out at the top of the falls while plenty of other people were rock scrambling to get that photo op in front of the falls.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_040_03202010 - Looking up towards the top of Salmon Creek Falls where people were chilling out in between the waterfall's converging segments beneath a giant boulder
Looking up towards the top of Salmon Creek Falls where people were chilling out in between the waterfall’s converging segments beneath a giant boulder

Heck, even the fairly large pullouts were completely full of cars.

In fact, on our most recent visit in 2018 towards the end of a nasty Dry Season, Salmon Creek was still flowing (albeit very lightly).

And despite such poor waterfall conditions,there were still a handful of people checking out the falls.

During our low season flow experience, we saw more of a segmented dual strand as opposed to a conjoining pair of waterfalls.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_039_11162018 - Salmon Creek Falls still flowing at the end of a very nasty dry season in November 2018 as seen from nearby a small 'cave' composed of fallen boulders
Salmon Creek Falls still flowing at the end of a very nasty dry season in November 2018 as seen from nearby a small ‘cave’ composed of fallen boulders

Nevertheless, there was still enough volume in Salmon Creek to produce reflective ponds and minor cascades spilling into them.

Maybe the high volume of visitors on our 2010 visit had something to do with the fact that were here in late afternoon when the afternoon sun casted favorable backlighting on the Salmon Creek Falls.

However, in the morning (when we had visited the falls in each of our first few visits), it may be quieter because we found ourselves looking directly against the sun (very bad for photos).

Consider it one of those tradeoffs where it’s especially hard to get that perfect picture postcard moment without the crowds and with good lighting.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_002_03292003 - Morning view of Salmon Creek Falls in March 2003
Morning view of Salmon Creek Falls in March 2003

I guess it’s one of those things where you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

Another consequence of the increasing popularity of the falls was that we did notice some juvenile tree graffiti near the waterfall itself.

This was something we didn’t notice before, but they’re mostly of the tree carving vandalism variety.

I don’t know if it’s legal to camp here, but the first two times we’ve scrambled to the waterfall (in separate years), we’ve seen people pitch tents and camp.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_035_03202010 - Tree graffiti
Tree graffiti

Indeed, we found yourselves tip-toeing past these folks to get closer to the falls in the morning.

Scrambling closer to Salmon Creek Falls

The scramble to the Salmon Creek Falls began on the south side of the bridge at the hairpin turn curving right before the gulch that contained the waterfall.

From there, a fairly obvious use trail behind brown signage led closer to the falls.

After about 5 to 10 minutes of walking, we saw a signposted fork where the path straight ahead went closer to the bottom falls.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_004_03202010 - Poison oak flanking the short trail to get closer to Salmon Creek Falls
Poison oak flanking the short trail to get closer to Salmon Creek Falls

Meanwhile, the path on the right continued up towards the top of the falls and beyond.

In our pursuit of the base of the falls, the path pretty much disappeared around some large boulders and small alcoves or “caves”.

In order to access Salmon Creek and a more frontal view of the falls, we had to scramble down the rocky banks.

And as we did so, we had to be cognizant of the poison oak flanking the trail as they were everywhere!

Authorities

Salmon Creek Falls resides in the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur in Monterey County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For more information, questions, and current conditions, you can visit their website.

Salmon_Creek_Falls_003_11162018 - Looking towards the last bit of sunny hillside in the late afternoon of our November 2018 visit to Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon_Creek_Falls_004_11162018 - Looking back at the twisty Highway 1 from the Salmon Creek Trailhead during our November 2018 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_008_11162018 - Signage on the south side of Salmon Creek marked the way to Salmon Creek Falls as well as some primitive campsites further beyond it as seen during our November 2018 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_009_11162018 - Looking back at the hairpin turn on Highway 1 from the Salmon Creek Trailhead just as we started our ascent in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_011_11162018 - Julie on the Salmon Creek Trail flanked by a bit less overgrowth in the tail end of the Dry Season in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_014_11162018 - On our most recent visit in November 2018, we noticed this sign that we didn't recall was there before. Either way, this was where the waterfall trail branched off to the left while the other trail climbed higher and to the right
Salmon_Creek_Falls_016_11162018 - This jumble of big boulders was where the trail pretty much disappeared and we had to scramble lower in order to get a satisfying view of Salmon Creek Falls in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_019_11162018 - Looking ahead at the Salmon Creek Falls in low flow during our visit in November 2018, which actually surprised us considering that we half expected this falls to be dry
Salmon_Creek_Falls_022_11162018 - This was how Salmon Creek Falls looked towards the end of the Dry Season in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_029_11162018 - Closer look between a jumble of large boulders towards the Salmon Creek Falls in low flow from back in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_031_11162018 - Another broad and close-up look at the Salmon Creek Falls during our November 2018 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_034_11162018 - Looking back at the jumble of boulders and mini-caves downstream of the Salmon Creek Falls as seen in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_038_11162018 - Contextual look at the Salmon Creek Falls from an overhanging large boulder fronting it as seen in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_039_11162018 - This was as close to Salmon Creek Falls as I was willing to get with its Dry Season flow in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_043_11162018 - This was one of the 'caves' that we chanced upon at Salmon Creek Falls during our November 2018 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_045_11162018 - Heading back on the trail would take us back to the Hwy 1 after having our fill of the Salmon Creek Falls in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_046_11162018 - Looking towards the Hwy 1 and pullout as we were returning to the highway after having had our fill of the Salmon Creek Falls in November 2018
Salmon_Creek_Falls_051_11162018 - Keeping to the right of the hairpin turn on Hwy 1 as we returned to the parked car on our November 2018 visit to Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon_Creek_Falls_001_03202010 - Salmon Creek Falls was visible from Hwy 1 when headed south during our March 2010 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_009_03202010 - The merging of two waterfalls flowing well on Salmon Creek as we approached it in March 2010
Salmon_Creek_Falls_022_03202010 - Contextual look across the plunge pool of Salmon Creek Falls in healthy flow as seen in March 2010
Salmon_Creek_Falls_042_03202010 - Parked cars filled up the pullout at the Salmon Creek Falls during our March 2010 visit
Salmon_Creek_Falls_011_03292003 - Closeup of the main plunge of Salmon Creek Falls as seen in March 2003
Salmon_Creek_Falls_001_scanned_03312001 - Looking towards Salmon Creek Falls from the hairpin turn on Hwy 1 during our first visit back in March 2001
Salmon_Creek_Falls_002_scanned_03312001 - How the Salmon Creek Falls looked in March 2001

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


To get to Salmon Creek Falls, we first had to make the long drive from Los Angeles to Ragged Point just north of San Simeon (roughly 250 miles or 5 hours drive).

I’m sure it’s a bit of a shorter drive for Bay Area Residents coming from say San Francisco (193 miles or under 5 hours drive) or San Jose (146 miles or about 3.5 hours drive).

Salmon_Creek_Falls_002_11162018 - Looking back at the Hwy 1 from the pullout before the scramble to Salmon Creek Falls
Looking back at the Hwy 1 from the pullout before the scramble to Salmon Creek Falls

Once we headed north on Hwy 1 past the hamlet of Ragged Point, the road started to wind a lot more.

At roughly 6 miles north of Ragged Point, we looked for a bridge spanning Salmon Creek with a fair-sized parking shoulder on the north side of the bridge.

This bridge was roughly 19 miles south of Limekiln State Park, where it’s much easier to spot Salmon Creek Falls from the road and be compelled to pull over in the aforementioned parking area.

Bottom up sweep of the falls with a lot of people around this busy place


Bottom up sweep of the falls from alongside the creek itself


Fixated on the falls from a viewpoint that required a bit of scrambling to get to


Classic old-school video of the falls in Big Sur


Checking out a partial view of the falls in dry season from the front of a small cave

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Tagged with: big sur, monterey, bay area, central coast, california, waterfall, ventana, los padres, gorda, ragged point



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.