62 South Bay Accent
ANN MARIE BROWN (2)
Falls and Berry
Falls Trail at Big
BOASTING THE LARGEST continuous stand of coast redwoods
south of San Francisco plus three of the Bay Area’s most charismatic
waterfalls, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a guaranteed crowdpleaser.
It’s no wonder it was designated in 1902 as California’s
first state park.
This 10.4-mile out-and-back hike on Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail is
the park’s premier hike, beginning at park headquarters and passing
three waterfalls—Berry Creek, Silver, and Golden. Even if the autumn
rains haven’t started yet, you’ll find plenty of water here year-round.
From the parking lot near park headquarters, follow Redwood
Nature Trail past the campfire circle. After crossing Opal Creek,
you’ll connect to Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. Immediately you’re
immersed in the ancient redwoods, some larger than 50 feet in
circumference and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. The path climbs
up a ridge, then drops down the other side, skirting the mammoth
trees. Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail parallels Kelly Creek and then West
Waddell Creek, two beautiful pool-and-drop streams. As you hike,
keep an eye out for yellow banana slugs crossing the trail—you
don’t want to step on these hardworking mollusks, who do the
important job of forest recycling.
At 4.2 miles, just before Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail meets up with
Berry Creek Falls Trail, you get a first glimpse of Berry Creek Falls
through the redwood branches. Even from a distance, the glistening
white cataract stands out amid the forest’s deep green. Turn right
and head to the overlook deck perched across from
the 65-foot-tall cataract. Berry Creek Falls tumbles
gracefully over a fern-lined cliff framed by redwoods.
Ponder the age of this forest: Some of Big Basin’s trees
are 2,500 years old, predating the Roman Empire.
Many hikers go no farther. A picnic lunch and a
turnaround here means an 8.8-mile round-trip (and a very fine
day). But if you’re feeling energetic, follow the trail up the left
side of Berry Creek Falls. Your route departs Berry Creek and
joins West Berry Creek, a narrower and more channeled stream.
Another 20 minutes of gentle climbing bring you to the base of
70-foot-high Silver Falls, which spills over sandstone and limestone
tinted orange and gold from rich minerals. Take in its splendor,
then ascend wooden steps and proceed to the lower tumble of
Golden Falls cascade, a long slippery slide of orange sandstone.
Then retrace your steps for a 10.4-mile day.
When planning a trip to Big Basin, keep in mind that getting
there requires a long and circuitous drive, so you might want to
spend the night in one of the park’s campgrounds. If you don’t
own a tent, you can rent one of 36 “tent cabins” (with wooden
floors and sides, a canvas top, and two double beds—just bring
your sleeping bag and a pillow). The camp store even has a coffee
bar that serves organic juices and smoothies. Reserve tent cabins
or camping sites at www.reservecalifornia.com.
INFO: $10 day-use per vehicle; 831/338-8860, www.parks.ca.gov
GETTING THERE: The park is located at 21600 Big Basin Way
in Boulder Creek. From the junction of Hwy. 9 and Hwy. 35 at
Saratoga Gap, drive 6 miles west on Hwy. 9 to Hwy. 236. Turn west
on Hwy. 236 and drive 8.4 winding miles to Big Basin Redwoods
State Park Headquarters.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
BOULDER CREEK » 10.4 MILES