About Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Creek Falls is another one of those must-see waterfalls when we’re out and about touring the Big Sur Coast.
Not only is this falls gushing with reliable flow (at least in the Spring), but it’s over 100ft in height, and it has a memorable shape in that its main plunge consists of a pair of waterfalls that join together as they drop.
Moreover, this is one of those free roadside waterfalls that either compel you to pull over and get a closer look (if you’re headed south on Hwy 1) or compel you to pull over just to satisfy your curiosity as to why so many vehicles are parked here (if you’re headed north on Hwy 1).
Increasing in popularity
Julie and I swear that this waterfall has been increasing in popularity over the years because we could still remember when we were one of a handful of people at the falls (often times having it to ourselves).
But on a recent visit in 2010, it was crowded here with some people chilling out at the top of the falls, plenty of others rock scrambling to get that photo op in front of the falls, and the pullouts were completely full of cars.
Even on our most recent visit in 2018 towards the end of a nasty Dry Season, Salmon Creek was still flowing (albeit very lightly), and there were a handful of people still checking out the falls. The low season flow of the falls was more of a segmented dual strand, but there was still enough volume to produce reflective ponds and minor cascades spilling into them.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that our latest visits here were in late afternoon when the afternoon sun casted favorable backlighting on the 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. 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 is that we did notice some juvenile tree graffiti near the falls (something we didn’t notice before; though 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 here. So you might find yourself tip-toeing (as we had to) past these folks to get closer to the falls in the morning.
Getting close to Salmon Creek Falls
The scramble to the falls began on the south side of the bridge at the hairpin turn curving right before the gulch that contained the Salmon Creek Falls.
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 while 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!
Salmon Creek Falls falls under the jurisdiction of the Los Padres National Forest. Although I haven’t seen any national forest literature devoted to this waterfall, if you’re looking for more information or to inquire about current conditions, you can check out the Los Padres National Forest USDA website.
Once we got past the hamlet of Ragged Point, the road started to wind a lot more.
At roughly 6 miles north of Ragged Point, look for a bridge spanning Salmon Creek with a fair-sized parking shoulder on the north side of the bridge.
This bridge is 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.
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