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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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