In the 30 years I have lived in the Santa Cruz area, Berry Creek Falls has remained a favorite destination. The best time of year to hike to the falls is in the spring, after the winter rainy season. The falls will be flowing and there will be many wildflowers.
Berry Creek Falls, about 70 feet, is located within Big Basin State Park. Upstream from Berry Creek Falls are two more falls, Silver Falls and Golden Cascades. If you want to see the falls you have several options:
1) Starting from Waddell Beach, a mostly flat out and back hike of about 12 miles. You can hike up to Silver Falls and Golden Cascades, adding another 2 miles to the hike.
2) Starting from the park headquarters, an out and back hike on Skyline to the Sea Trail, about about 10 miles. Hiking up to Silver Falls and Golden Cascades adds another 2 miles.
3) Starting from the park headquarters, a loop hike consisting of Skyline to the Sear Trail, Berry Creek Falls Trail and Sunset Trail. This loop is about 11.5 miles, with a total elevation gain of 1600 to 1800 feet. The loop is my favorite because it travels through redwood forests, pine forests and even chaparral, when the trail crosses a sandstone outcrop. This is the route I have described.
Signs at the trail head warn the hike is strenuous and takes about 6 hours for the round trip. While the hike is long, I don't think it is that strenuous. Although you loose and gain elevation constantly, the trail is generally not steep and it is pleasant hiking on the generally shaded trail.
In season, there are many wildflowers.
Skyline to the Sea Trail West Waddel Creek Fern Rock
From Santa Cruz, take CA 9 to Boulder Creek. Turn left on to CA 236, and drive ten miles to the Big Basin Park headquarters. Park in the day use area.
From San Jose, take Highway 17 South. Take the Saratoga exit to CA 9. After 12 miles or so, take CA 236 to the park headquarters. Park in the day use area.
Berry Creek Falls Berry Creek Falls Silver Falls
) Start at the Redwood Trail trail head. Walk past the restrooms and cross Opal Creek.
2) Turn left on the well marked Skyline to the Sea Trail, gaining about 300 feet of elevation, until you reach the top of the ridge. Cross Middle Ridge Fire Road, continuing on the Skyline to The Sea Trail. Eventually the trail begins to parallel West Waddell Creek. After the trail crosses the creek, head left, continuing downstream.
3) Turn left on the marked Berry Creek Falls Trail, hiking up hill. You will pass a viewing platform where you can see the falls through the trees. At the base of the falls, there is a larger platform. It is a nice place to stop and eat lunch or a snack, although you will share it with other hikers.
4) From the platform, continue up hill on Berry Creek Falls Trail. You pass Silver Falls before coming to the Golden Cascades, a series of short plunges and pour offs. The cascades get their name from the golden colored rock they run over.
5) Continue hiking up hill, past the Golden Cascades. At the junction of the trail to Sunset Camp and the Sunset Trail, take marked Sunset Trail, continuing until the trail ends at the Dool Trail.
6) Following the signs, turn right on to the Dool Trail, following it to the Skyline to the Sea Trail, which you take to return to the parking lot.
Golden Cascades Golden Cascades Golden Cascades
Essential Gear, Park Fees, Warnings
All you need is water and hiking boots. Maps of Big Basin SP are available at the park headquarters for $5. Currently (6/2010) there is a $10 admission fee to the Park.
Check trail conditions there have been heavy rains. The trail may be closed due to downed trees and washed out bridges.