Silver Falls, The Cascades, and Golden Falls

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California, USA

About Silver Falls, The Cascades, and Golden Falls


Hiking Distance: 10.8 miles loop or round trip (out-and-back)
Suggested Time: 6-7 hours

Date first visited: 2010-04-10
Date last visited: 2019-04-23

Waterfall Latitude: 37.17905
Waterfall Longitude: -122.2722

Silver Falls, Golden Falls, and The Cascades are the series of waterfalls on West Berry Creek further upstream from the famous Berry Creek Falls.

I’ve devoted a separate write-up for these waterfalls instead of combining them with the Berry Creek Falls page because I view these falls to be optional extensions to that hike.

Big_Basin_142_04102010 - Silver Falls
Silver Falls

In any case, these waterfalls were arguably more spectacular and varied than Berry Creek Falls.

After all, Silver Falls had the vertical plunge just like Berry Creek Falls, and they had similar height.

The trail at the top of the falls even skirted the watercourse (sometimes flowing over the trail itself)!

The Cascades were a series of attractive waterfalls in succession between the Silver Falls and Golden Falls.

Big_Basin_193_04102010 - The Cascades between Silver Falls and Golden Falls
The Cascades between Silver Falls and Golden Falls

It featured an attractive colorful bedrock underlying parts of its cascading sections.

Finally, the Golden Falls was almost true to its name given its underlying golden bedrock color while the waterfall itself had a satisfying size.

Indeed, we easily could have thought of all of these waterfalls as one big waterfall.

If it were considered as such, that would make this waterfall have a drop of between 150-200ft in cumulative height!

Big_Basin_219_04102010 - Golden Cascade or Golden Falls
Golden Cascade or Golden Falls

Is that reason enough to extend the Berry Creek Falls hike to encompass these West Berry Creek waterfalls?

Out-and-Back Hike on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

This was the way that Julie and I did this hike the first time we did it back in April 2010.

We basically started at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters and followed the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail all the way to the Berry Creek Falls Trail.

Then, we followed the Berry Creek Falls Trail up past Berry Creek Falls eventually arriving at this trio of waterfalls about a mile further from Berry Creek Falls.

Big_Basin_118_04102010 - Julie on the trail between Berry Creek Falls and Silver Falls
Julie on the trail between Berry Creek Falls and Silver Falls

The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail to the Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform trail description was covered in the Berry Creek Falls page.

Beyond the Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform, the trail continued climbing up to a ledge as it went past the top of Berry Creek Falls itself.

Then, the trail continued for another mile through seemingly damp and mossy terrain amidst more groves of tall coastal redwood trees.

At about 0.3 miles upstream of the Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform, we reached a footbridge that crossed West Berry Creek.

Big_Basin_Loop_347_04232019 - The trail upstream of Berry Creek Falls, which went underneath these fallen trees
The trail upstream of Berry Creek Falls, which went underneath these fallen trees

Just downstream of this bridge was the confluence of West Berry Creek and Berry Creek.

With the combined flow of these creeks, this was why Berry Creek Falls tended to have more reliable flow.

Therefore, I suspect this was the main reason why it also got most of the fame and literature as a result of this more reliable flow (let alone its pleasing 70ft drop).

The Berry Creek Falls Trail continued meandering gently upstream amongst more redwood trees before finally arriving at the foot of Silver Falls at about 0.6 miles from the West Berry Creek footbridge.

Big_Basin_164_04102010 - Silver Falls as seen through foliage on the trail
Silver Falls as seen through foliage on the trail

I thought what made 60ft Silver Falls attractive were the fallen logs criss-crossing its base in addition to its vertical drop and colorful underlying rock.

The best view was right in front of it, but that required us to leave the trail and cross a shallow part of West Berry Creek along with some additional scrambling past some fallen logs.

There was a sign discouraging scrambling near the revegetation area so the scrambling that we did to get a better view was from further downstream.

Next, the main trail climbed steeply up steps as it rose up to the brink of Silver Falls.

Big_Basin_Loop_314_04232019 - The trail skirting right by the brink of Silver Falls
The trail skirting right by the brink of Silver Falls

Right at the top of the falls, the steps were carved right into the bedrock while hugging the steep cliff face as it went right besides the flow of West Berry Creek.

In high flow, the creek can even go right over the trail itself, which was almost the case when Julie and I first came here!

In any case, we had to be careful with the slippery footing, especially given the exposure to dropoffs here.

Just upstream of the brink of Silver Falls was the Cascades, where there were a couple of spur trails leading to the foot of different sections of this series of waterfalls.

Big_Basin_Loop_234_04232019 - Context of the Berry Creek Falls Trail with the top of the Cascades
Context of the Berry Creek Falls Trail with the top of the Cascades

The trail continued climbing up steps alongside the entire drop of the Cascades providing us with different perspectives of these waterfalls.

Finally, at the top of this climb, the trail rounded a bend and finally arrived at the foot of the attractive Golden Falls.

With this waterfall, we were able to get angled and frontal views.

And given how fewer people tended to extend their hike out this far, this would be a far quieter and serene spot for a picnic lunch (though we’d have to improvise with the fallen logs and rocks).

Big_Basin_228_04102010 - Our last look at the Golden Cascade before heading back as part of a long out-and-back route that we took on our first visit in April 2010
Our last look at the Golden Cascade before heading back as part of a long out-and-back route that we took on our first visit in April 2010

This was the turnaround point of this hike as the overall distance was about 10.8 miles round trip, and it took Julie and I about 7 hours to complete.

The Sunset Trail and Skyline-to-the-Sea Loop

The second time I visited this trio of waterfalls, I did it as a loop hike that was also roughly 10.8 miles round trip.

Because I hiked solo, I managed to do the whole thing in less than 7 hours, including rest breaks, a picnic lunch, and a pleasant chat with a stranger.

The ranger at the Park Headquarters recommended doing this hike in a counterclockwise manner, which meant doing the Sunset Trail first, then coming back via the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.

Big_Basin_Loop_010_04232019 - Redwood Trees besides the Dool Trail near the Old Lodge
Redwood Trees besides the Dool Trail near the Old Lodge

She made this recommendation because the Sunset Trail had more undulations as it went into Timm’s Creek, West Waddell Creek, Berry Creek, and West Berry Creek.

In her mind, it was better to have most of the uphill climbing taken care of at the beginning when you have more energy and the morning temperatures would be cooler.

Doing this climbing at the height of the day’s temperatures would make this a much more taxing hike, which would be the case had I done it in a clockwise manner.

In any case, I did this trail by following the Dool Trail to the Sunset Trail.

Big_Basin_Loop_057_04232019 - Near the Sunset Connector Trail
Near the Sunset Connector Trail

Like with much of the maze of trails and intersections near the Park Headquarters, it can be confusing.

Anyways, once on the Sunset Trail, I then took it for another mile towards the Sunset Connector Trail.

Then, I continued on the Sunset Connector Trail, which then proceeded to climb in earnest before descending towards Timm’s Creek.

Most of this stretch of hike involved passing beneath redwood trees, including Walter W. Boardman Grove as well as another grove dedicated to Dolly M. Hornby.

Big_Basin_Loop_106_04232019 - The Sunset Trail became really muddy and sloppy near West Waddell Creek
The Sunset Trail became really muddy and sloppy near West Waddell Creek

Beyond Timm’s Creek, the trail continued descending towards West Waddell Creek.

The trail in this stretch was quite sloppy and muddy during my hike in April 2019.

It eventually bottomed out at a footbridge over West Waddell Creek before climbing up to a trail junction with the north end of the Timm’s Creek Connector Trail.

That trail was closed when I did this hike, and I suspected the muddy conditions as well as the fallen trees had a lot to do with it.

Big_Basin_Loop_114_04232019 - Dealing with more muddy surfaces along the Sunset Trail given the flood damage that the occurred along West Waddell Creek as seen in April 2019
Dealing with more muddy surfaces along the Sunset Trail given the flood damage that the occurred along West Waddell Creek as seen in April 2019

There were also lots of mosquitoes given the high concentration of standing water in the area.

Beyond West Waddell Creek, the trail then climbed once again before it descended into the next drainage for Berry Creek.

In this drainage, the air was noticeably cooler on the morning of my hike.

Eventually, this descent bottomed out at a bridge over Berry Creek.

Big_Basin_Loop_123_04232019 - More coastal redwood trees seen along the Sunset Trail before descending into the cooler drainage leading down to the waterfalls on Berry Creek
More coastal redwood trees seen along the Sunset Trail before descending into the cooler drainage leading down to the waterfalls on Berry Creek

Then, the Sunset Trail made another climb even up beyond the forest canopy into the open air before descending towards the Berry Creek Falls Trail.

The Sunset Trail veered away from West Berry Creek at this point, which led to the Sunset Campground.

However, I continued on the Berry Creek Falls Trail, which then descended alongside West Berry Creek.

At about 0.1 mile downhill from the Sunset Campground spur trail junction (or 5.4 miles from Park Headquarters), I finally reached the Golden Falls.

Big_Basin_Loop_176_04232019 - Out in the open air part of the Sunset Trail between Berry Creek and West Berry Creek
Out in the open air part of the Sunset Trail between Berry Creek and West Berry Creek

The trail then continued its descent alongside the Cascades before making its dramatic descent alongside Silver Falls.

Beyond Silver Falls, the trail meandered alongside West Berry Creek while towered over by more groves of redwood trees.

Eventually, the trail reached the footbridge at the confluence of West Berry Creek and Berry Creek.

This was about 0.6 miles downstream of Silver Falls.

Big_Basin_Loop_401_04232019 - This was the footbridge downstream of Berry Creek Falls where going over the bridge on the left returned to Park Headquarters via the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, but going right would have descended to Waddell Beach
This was the footbridge downstream of Berry Creek Falls where going over the bridge on the left returned to Park Headquarters via the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, but going right would have descended to Waddell Beach

In another 0.3 miles, the trail then descended to the Berry Creek Falls Lookout Platform.

After having our fill of Berry Creek Falls, I then took the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail back to Park Headquarters to complete the 10.8-mile counterclockwise loop trail.

Authorities

Silver Falls, the Cascades, and Golden Falls technically reside in the West Waddell Creek State Wilderness, but for all intents and purposes, it’s part of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Big_Basin_Loop_002_04232019 - Starting the loop hike early in the morning by the Old Lodge in April 2019. This photo and the next several shots came on this day
Big_Basin_Loop_004_04232019 - Crossing a bridge over Opal Creek as I was pursuing the Sunset Trail during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_006_04232019 - Following the Dool Trail to the Sunset Trail during my April 2019 hike in Big Basin Redwoods
Big_Basin_Loop_021_04232019 - With an early morning start to the hike in April 2019, I noticed these squirrels getting it on.  You just never know what you can find in Nature when you come out here
Big_Basin_Loop_039_04232019 - Most of the first mile of the hike climbed as it meandered amongst tall coastal redwood trees
Big_Basin_Loop_049_04232019 - Looking up towards the top of coastal redwood trees along the Sunset Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_056_04232019 - The Sunset Connector Trail was actually in common with the out-and-back hike that Julie and I did back in April 2010 so this sign kind of brought back a deja vu moment
Big_Basin_Loop_067_04232019 - The Sunset Connector Trail was also the detour for the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail due to a closure between the Sunset Trail and the Howard King Trail along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_068_04232019 - Beyond the Sunset Connector Trail, the Sunset Trail then continued to climb as it meander beneath these tall coastal redwood trees
Big_Basin_Loop_090_04232019 - The black bark on the redwood trees demonstrates that they have a fire resistant bark that allows them to survive such events.  It's how they can live thousands of years before their shallow roots may cause them to topple over
Big_Basin_Loop_095_04232019 - The Sunset Trail briefly crossed Timm's Creek after a lengthy descent from its peak in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_104_04232019 - As the Sunset Trail descended towards West Waddell Creek, the trail became a bit muddy and sloppy as seen during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_107_04232019 - Crossing the footbridge over West Waddell Creek
Big_Basin_Loop_117_04232019 - This was the Timm's Creek Connector Trail, which was closed during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_120_04232019 - Beyond West Waddell Creek, the Sunset Trail made another climb.  This time, the shade was becoming less and so I was starting to see full redwood trees outside of the forest canopy
Big_Basin_Loop_131_04232019 - It was definitely warming up when I was climbing on the trail beyond the West Waddell Creek junction in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_138_04232019 - However, as soon as I crossed over a pass and descended into the next gully, it suddenly felt noticeably cooler during my April 2019 hike towards Golden Cascade and Berry Creek Falls, etc.
Big_Basin_Loop_152_04232019 - After the Sunset Trail peaked once again, it entered into the Berry Creek drainage, where I started to notice cooler morning air once again in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_161_04232019 - This was the bridge over Berry Creek en route to the Golden Cascade during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_170_04232019 - Having to duck under more fallen redwood trees during my hike in April 2019 en route to the Golden Cascade via the Sunset Trail
Big_Basin_Loop_184_04232019 - Some wildflowers blooming besides the Sunset Trail in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_188_04232019 - With the Sunset Trail momentarily out of the forest canopy, I also spotted this lizard doing push ups while basking in the sun in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_194_04232019 - This was the trail junction where I left the Sunset Trail (which was now bound for Sunset Campground) and took on the Berry Creek Trail during my April 2019 long loop hike
Big_Basin_Loop_198_04232019 - Profile view of part of the Golden Cascade as the Berry Creek Falls Trail descended alongside it during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_200_04232019 - Descending towards Golden Falls in April 2019, the first of the waterfalls that I encountered on this Sunset Trail / Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail Loop
Big_Basin_Loop_202_04232019 - Side frontal view of the Golden Cascade under the partial light of the morning sun during my April 2019 visit
Big_Basin_Loop_205_04232019 - Another look at the Golden Cascade as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_220_04232019 - Frontal look at the Golden Cascade in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_226_04232019 - Portrait look at the Golden Cascade as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_230_04232019 - Direct look at the Golden Falls looking somewhat golden in the shadows of the daytime sun
Big_Basin_Loop_233_04232019 - Continuing on the descending Berry Creek Falls Trail alongside the Golden Cascades during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_237_04232019 - Looking upstream at the next series of The Cascades between the Silver Falls and Golden Cascade as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_239_04232019 - Portrait view of The Cascades as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_249_04232019 - Broad look at The Cascades between Silver Falls and Golden Cascade in long exposure as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_258_04232019 - The Cascades were hard to photograph on this day in April 2019 due to the shadows
Big_Basin_Loop_263_04232019 - Another look at part of the Cascades between Silver Falls and Golden Cascade as seen in my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_268_04232019 - Context of the trail with the Cascades as seen during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_275_04232019 - Checking out the lowermost tier of the Cascades in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_309_04232019 - Descending the slippery trail alongside Silver Falls during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_304_04232019 - Looking back at the context of the Berry Creek Falls Trail with Silver Falls in the background during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_302_04232019 - Another look back at the climb alongside the Silver Falls during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_282_04232019 - Portrait look at the Silver Falls as of April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_285_04232019 - Making it down to the Silver Falls, which was probably the most satisfying of the West Berry Creek waterfalls as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_320_04232019 - Going under some deadfalls after continuing downstream from Silver Falls during my long Berry Creek Falls loop hike in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_323_04232019 - Downstream from Silver Falls, the Berry Creek Falls Trail meandered amongst more redwood trees, which provided ample shade to keep things relatively cool in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_326_04232019 - Continuing to hike amongst the lush forested trail between Silver Falls and Berry Creek Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_328_04232019 - Continuing to hike by more coastal redwood trees downstream of Silver Falls en route to Berry Creek Falls during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_337_04232019 - Still skirting by more impressive coastal redwood trees along the Berry Creek Falls Trail downstream of Silver Falls in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_377_04232019 - Back at the familiar Berry Creek Falls and lookout platform
Big_Basin_Loop_410_04232019 - Now on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail as I was continuing with the loop hike in April 2019 on my approach back to the Park Headquarters
Big_Basin_Loop_412_04232019 - Crossing over West Waddell Creek during my April 2019 hike back to the Park Headquarters from Berry Creek Falls
Big_Basin_Loop_418_04232019 - It was a generally uphill trail along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail to get back to the Park Headquarters to complete the long loop hike in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_425_04232019 - Traversing a very eroded part of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail given all the flood and storm damage as seen in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_428_04232019 - Continuing along the uphill Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which kept climbing the rest of the way with still more redwood trees to keep things interesting in April 2019
Big_Basin_Loop_436_04232019 - Still hiking amongst more redwood trees on the return hike to Park Headquarters during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_504_04232019 - Still more redwoods to see all throughout the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail during my April 2019 hike
Big_Basin_Loop_506_04232019 - The guy in this picture was Paul, who I had a nice chat with as we walked back to the Park Headquarters chatting about all things related to Big Basin in April 2019
Big_Basin_112_04102010 - Going beyond Berry Creek Falls. This photo was taken in April 2010 and the rest of the photos in this gallery was taken on this day
Big_Basin_149_04102010 - The trail and Silver Falls
Big_Basin_164_04102010 - Looking down at Silver Falls
Big_Basin_168_04102010 - Approaching the top of Silver Falls via rock steps
Big_Basin_170_04102010 - Approaching the top of Silver Falls via rock steps
Big_Basin_177_04102010 - The lowest section of Golden Cascade
Big_Basin_183_04102010 - The middle section of Golden Cascade and trail
Big_Basin_186_04102010 - Closer look at the middle section of Golden Cascade and trail
Big_Basin_214_04102010 - The Golden Cascade's most interesting tier
Big_Basin_233_04102010 - We took an inadvertent detour on the way back to the trailhead

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Since these waterfalls share the same trailhead as that of Berry Creek Falls, see the Berry Creek Falls page for detailed driving directions.

Moreover, since Silver Falls and Golden Cascade are actually an extension of the Berry Creek Falls hike, please see that page for the trail descriptions leading up to what’s described on this page.

For additional context, San Jose is about 6 miles (roughly 15 minutes depending on traffic) east of Santa Clara, 32 miles (about 45 minutes) north of Santa Cruz, 48 miles (about an hour or more depending on traffic) south of San Francisco, 41 miles (about an hour or more depending on traffic) south of Oakland, 86 miles (about 90 minutes drive or longer depending on traffic) south of Napa, 120 miles (about 2 hours drive) south of Sacramento, and 340 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Bottom up sweep from directly in front of the falls


Bottom up sweep along the falls trying to convey the unusual trail that goes right besides the top of the falls


Bottom up sweep of the middle section of the Golden Cascades


Bottom up sweep from right next to the uppermost of the Golden Cascades we saw


Checking out the Golden Falls from its side then front its front on my return visit in April 2019


Following along the so-called Cascades from its top down to its front during my return visit in April 2019


Checking out the lowest of the Cascades then descending some slippery steps alongside Silver Falls before reaching the bottom for a more frontal view. This was captured during my return visit in April 2019

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Tagged with: big basin, redwoods, state park, santa cruz, san jose, santa clara, bay area, central coast, california, waterfall, silicon valley, skyline to the sea, kelly creek, waddell beach



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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.