About Silver Falls, The Cascades, and Golden Falls
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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