Berry Creek Falls Trail, Big Basin Redwoods SP

Many, many years ago before we had kids, my husband and I decided spontaneously to go away for the weekend. We looked at the map and selected a big green square and headed there. That green square turned out to be Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz, CA.

When we got to the park, we asked the ranger for their best hike!
Walking below the Redwoods

The ranger on duty sent us on an 8-10 mile hike to Berry Creek Falls. We set out late morning and barely made it back before dark. I remember running up the switchbacks to the headquarters at dusk. I normally find these switchbacks strenuous to walk, so I’m sure it was grueling.

However, the spontaneously trip to a new place, followed by a long hike through beautiful scenery became a lasting memory for us. We’ve returned nearly every year to camp and hike at the park, bringing our kids with us.

Waterfalls | Berry Creek Falls

How to Get to Berry Creek Falls

There are three different trails one can take to get there. Like a lot of people, I like loop trails. The second two options are loops.

Maps: You don’t want to set out without a paper map as you may need more info then the trail markers provide. You’ll find free maps at the ranger station at park headquarters at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  The headquarters can be found on GPS and the park rangers are friendly and helpful; I think one of the best parts of their job is helping people choose hikes.

Strenuous Hike: All three trails to Berry Creek Falls are pretty strenuous and all have different sights to recommend them.

1) There and back trail: From park headquarters take Skyline to the Sea Trail to Berry Creek Falls and back. This hike is eight miles roundtrip and includes several switchbacks 🙂

Every inch of Skyline to the Sea Trail is beautiful. It’s lined throughout with redwoods and ferns, and follows Kelly Creek for most of distance to the falls. Check out my previous post for some photos of a spot I found on this very creek. Note: there are two-three waterfalls above Berry Creek Falls which are beautiful as well and can be accessed by continuing on the Berry Creek Falls Trail.

2) Loop Option 1: This trip starts the same as the hike above. Head out on Skyline to the Sea Trail.  Just past Middle Ridge Road, you’ll find the juncture for the Howard King Trail.  I love this trail because one, it has a fantastic view of the ocean from Mt. McAbee Outlook at 1739ft and two, the trail takes you through a couple of contrasting micro climates. First, you’ll walk through the redwoods, then chaparral and then back into the redwoods again. Total distance is about 10 miles.

3) Loop Option 2: Again, head out on the Skyline to the Sea Trail. Ignore the Howard King Trail, and look for the Sunset Connector Trail to your right. Follow Sunset Trail several miles to the three upper falls: Golden Falls, Cascade Falls and Silver Falls. In my opinion, Sunset Trail isn’t as interesting as the other two and it’s probably 11 miles…a little longer. What is cool is that it makes a loop that takes you past all three-four waterfalls. Follow the Berry Creek Falls Trail down past Berry Creek Falls and return on the Skyline to the Sea Trail.

Bathrooms: Last bathroom is near the amphitheater and the bridge before you start on the Skyline by the Sea Trail.

Dogs: Not allowed on the trails at Big Basin Redwoods SP. They are allowed in the campground and the paved roads and trails.

Crowds and Parking: Weekends, especially summer weekends, are busy. Go as early in the day as you can; before 9am is really great. If you arrive after 11 am, you’ll spend more time finding parking but we’ve always found a spot in our 2 decades of visiting.

Silver Falls, Big Basin Redwoods SP

Golden Falls

I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on or We also have a nature-inspired jewelry shop especially for nature lovers.

Mossy rock



FOUND — One Japanese Garden by the Side of the Trail

My family and I were on a trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park when we saw a boulder-filled stretch of creek that intrigued us. I gazed at the rounded mossy boulders, abundant plants, branches and water. As I turned around, I noticed how beautiful and harmonious this spot was from every angle, like a Japanese Garden.

Big Basin Redwoods SP

The locale had a couple of plants that I want to mention. One is liverwort, which like moss, is a primordial plant without roots that takes in water from its leafy surface. To me, it’s an uncommon plant I see from time to time in a creek, and according to my plant ID resources, it’s found throughout the world, including deserts and the arctic.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The second plant I want to call out appears in the foreground of most of these photos showing off its bright green five-fingered leaves. My plant friends from Facebook say this is Western coltsfoot or petasites frigidus var. Palmatus.


Changing the topic back to moss; I’ve had a powerful interest in moss for approximately 10 years now. People often ask me, Why moss? I think this question implies something negative like “Why are you so interested in moss of all things?”

Mossy Rocks | Japanese Garden

I’ve asked myself the question over and over and I come up with the same answer each time. I have a lifelong love of color and texture and I’m infatuated with the bright green and fuzzy texture of moss. I want to have a modern and edgy sensibility — but if I’m honest, I actually have a romantic and sensual vision, and moss is linked to that vision.

I also love how moss is an element from the background. It’s like the cello and the bass in an orchestra; an instrument that rarely has a solo like a violin, flute or trumpet. I like flipping the symphony over on its head and making the cello the main instrument. In my mind, the moss represents what is overlooked, hidden, quiet and subtle; I love taking it out of the background and bringing it to the foreground.

Moss Plants


John Muir was a Lover and a Fighter

This last week I read John Muir: The story of my boyhood and youth.

John Muir Many photos of Muir show him with a long beard reclining on a rock looking contemplative. Because of this, I’ve pictured his life as akin to the ideals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it turns out that Muir did spent several years living in a tiny cabin in Yosemite, communing with nature, doing science and reading Emerson. Perhaps my one-dimensional view of Muir had a basis in fact.

You may be wondering exactly what the great John Muir is known for, so here’s the ultra-short version before I share some stories from his boyhood and youth: He was a writer, naturalist and preservationist of our American wilderness. Muir was an ardent promoter for the idea of National Parks and is credited with the creation of Yosemite and Sequoia NP.  He also co-founded the Sierra Club and led it until his death.


Moss Plants Marin California

John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838. He went to school, lived in a large house with servants and enjoyed the attention of his loving grandparents. In his book John Muir: The story of my boyhood and youth, he describes flowers, a robin’s nest and many other early nature experiences.

What ran against my image of Muir as a peaceful philosopher was that Muir fought everyday of his boyhood. He says, “After attaining the manly, belligerent age of five or six years, very few of my school days passed without a fist fight, and half a dozen was no uncommon number” (p. 24-25, John Muir.)

Perhaps such a fighting spirit helped Muir to accomplish all he did. He certainly had exceptional grit; fearlessness in the face of dangers and challenges would have helped him to live alone in the woods for years.


When John was 11, he, his father and two younger brothers set out for America, while his mother and sisters stayed in Scotland. His father had decided to migrate for religious reasons because he didn’t find the Church of Scotland strict enough.

John and his brothers were excited about migrating. Once in Wisconsin, the four of them — one man, 11 year old John and two younger brothers — set about clearing the wilderness homestead in Wisconsin, planting the first crops and building a house for the family of ten. It was grueling work for the three young boys no doubt.


There are chapters of Muir’s writing describing in rich detail the flora and fauna of Wisconsin as well as his labour on the farm. In between the poetic observations of nature, he slips in a paragraph here and there about the strictness of his father or how he worked 16-17 hours a day from the age 11 until he left home at age 19.

Once his father’s demands almost killed John when he had John dig a water well with some mason’s chisels. The well took weeks and months to dig, as the bottom was sandstone and he had to dig it out painstakingly with the tiny tools. It seemed like nature was John’s solace, his escape and entertainment for his bright and curious mind while his muscles and body were compelled to complete endless labor.

Moss Plants Marin California

The third and last surprising fact from Muir’s youth was that, as much as he loved nature, his first or other area of interest was engineering. As an older teen, Muir started rising at 1 AM in the morning to work on engineering projects of his own design, such as a clock, a barometer, a thermometer, and more. His father wasn’t happy that he was giving up sleep to build things, but he didn’t stop him either. His father seems to have been secretly pleased with John’s creations.

When John did leave home at 19, it was these inventions carved from hickory wood that opened doors for him. On a neighbor’s suggestion, he took them to the Wisconsin State Fair. At the fair, people were incredibly impressed with John’s creations, and he made connections that led to his first jobs.


For someone who found writing difficult, Muir wrote a surprising number of books. He wrote 12 books and 300 articles. The book jacket says that “this portion of his autobiography is one of the classic accounts of pioneering, and of the heartbreaking toil demanded of those who would make cultivated fields out of wild land.”

I found the book John Muir: The story of my boyhood and youth fascinating on multiple levels from its accounts of pioneer life to the events and places and people that shaped John Muir. The close-observed and romantic descriptions of nature moved me and I think other readers will find them distinctive as well.


Photos in this article are from the Steep Ravine Trail, Marin, CA and the nearby Matt Davis Trail. Taking photos of mosses and forests is my greatest joy and has been for several years. While you are here, check out the shop with jewelry for nature-lovers associated with this blog.

Ladder Steep Ravine Trail Marin

Mossy Rockstar – Steep Ravine Trail, Marin CA

I declare Steep Ravine the rockstar of mossy trails. I reveled in the abundance of mossy trees, mossy rocks, lichens and ferns. You get the idea. The science fiction fans in my household dubbed it Middle Earth for any Tolkien fans reading this.

These first three moss plant photos were taken on Mother’s Day in early May. It was a super foggy day which enhanced the green color of the mosses.






This trail is more strenuous than others I’ve reviewed in Marin, such as Cascade Falls and Cataract Falls, though not as strenuous as the name Steep Ravine Trail might make you think.



In addition to the plentiful mosses and ferns, the other highlight of the trail is the wooden ladder about 1.5 miles downhill! I’m so geeky — gushing about a ladder on a trail! It adds adventure and magic to the trail and made me feel like a kid.

I also appreciate how the trail builders took the trail via ladder right up along the waterfall. Some less imaginative trail builder might have placed the trail so it went around rocky outcropping and bypassed the waterfall.


Maps: It’ll make your trail days so much happier if you pick up a paper map at Pantoll Station in Marin CA.  Pantoll Station can be found on GPS.

Moderate Hike: If you haven’t hiked in while, I suggest going the 1.5 miles down the trail to the ladder. Climb down the ladder, look around, and then hike the 1.5 miles back. There are places you can sit, if you wish to take breaks on the way back. Lots of people jog or move fast on trails, but this is a trail that bears slowing down and pondering.

Challenging Hike: If a seven mile hike with some uphill climbing suits you, I recommend three options:

1) Down Steep Ravine Trail from Pantoll Station to where the trail meets the Dipsea Trail, and return back up Steep Ravine. (Approximately five miles and strenuous, as the trip is 50% uphill.)

2) Down Steep Ravine Trail and follow the Dipsea Trail to Stinson Beach. At Stinson Beach, locate the Matt Davis Trail behind the fire station at the end of the short block. Follow Matt Davis back uphill to Pantoll Station. Matt Davis will take you back to where you started. (Approximately seven-eight miles and strenuous.)

3) Reverse the hike above. Start at Stinson Beach and go up the Matt Davis Trail located at the end of the side street past the Fire Station. Come down Steep Ravine. (Approximately seven miles and strenuous, but on this route the second half of the trip is downhill.)

Dogs: Not allowed in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, but dogs are allowed in the Mount Tamalpais Water District. Hikes at Cataract Falls and Cascade Falls both allow dogs.

Crowds and Parking: Weekends, especially summer weekends, are busy. Go as early in the day as you possibly can; before 9am is really great. If you arrive after 11 am you may have a very hard time parking. There is some parking along the side of the roads, which is okay if you don’t mind walking with cars passing by.

I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on or We also have a nature-inspired jewelry shop especially for nature lovers. For example, a gorgeous twig necklace is a great conversation starter.

Cataract Falls Trail, Marin, CA



Cataract Falls Trail is an idyllic walk through the woods culminating in a dramatic waterfall! There are trees, ferns and mosses all along the creek. The image above is the top of the Cataract Falls, and if you follow the creek down, you’ll find multiple smaller but exquisite falls below.

The image below is of one of the lower falls that’s easily accessible, and where there is a short spur trail and some beautiful spots to sit.

These photos were taken in March and April of 2016, but by early May 2016 the water is slowing and the moss is considerably drier. Plan your visit during the Spring rainy season for optimal moss and fern viewing!

Cataract Falls, Marin, CA

Parking Recommendations: Go to Pantoll Station, which is easily found on GPS. Get a printed map there, speak to a ranger if you wish, and use the flush toilets! If you just want to grab a map, use one of the 15 minute spaces on the eastside of the parking lot, as the parking lot is often full.

On weekends, go early in the day. By afternoon, parking is harder to find, and you may need to walk along the road from your parking spot.

When you leave Pantoll Station, drive 1.3 miles up Pantoll Road to Ridgecrest Road. There is a larger parking lot there and pit toilets where the two roads meet.

Difficulty: This trail is appropriate for most hikers, as it’s just 5 miles round trip and almost entirely level. There are also lovely places to stop, and the scenery is outstanding!

Dogs Allowed: Dogs are allowed throughout the Marin Municipal Water District, including this trail.

I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on or You’ll also find a nature-inspired jewelry shop on this site that caters to nature lovers. Forest-themed necklaces allow you to show the world your love of nature. An acorn necklace, for example, is a great conversation starter and helps you meet others who share your love of the outdoors.

Small and Beautiful Cascade Falls



Cascade Falls is a moderate two miles roundtrip with little change in elevation. There’s no parking lot at the trail head but there are a few pull out parking spots. I went several times this Spring and each time there were three to ten cars parked on the street. If you hike here in Summer the waterfall will be dry or mostly dry.

To get there, drive west from Hwy. 101 on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard about 5 miles to the town of Fairfax. Turn left on a street called Pastori where there is a traffic light, and then make an immediate left and go one block down to Broadway and turn right. Drive up Broadway and as you are leaving the center of Fairfax turn left on to Bolinas Road. From Bolinas Road make a soft right on Cascade Drive and follow it until you get to the end. Trail starts at the gate at the end of the road.

Few more notes about Cascade Trail at this link and below.




Distance: This is a great hike for young kids because it’s only 2 miles roundtrip and it’s quite level. As far as I can see the trail doesn’t continue after you get to the Falls. However, there are other trails that crisscross the main trail so you can take one of those to make this a longer hike.

Parking: No parking lot. A few pullout spots. Be careful not to block a driveway. I went 3 times in Spring and had no difficulty parking.

Dogs Allowed: This is the Marin Municipal Water District which allows dogs.

Bathrooms: None

Coffee, icecream, beer, lunch, dinner: Fairfax is a scenic small town and you have to go through it to get to the trail. I stopped each time for a coffee or ice-cream and that made it an especially relaxed and wonderful day.


I’m an artsy, California photographer. Please follow me on or where I post moss, waterfall and forest pictures all the time. You’ll also find a nature-inspired jewelry shop just for nature lovers. An twig charm necklace, for example, shows your love of nature and is a great conversation starter.

Finding Moss in all the Right Places

We were looking for a something called pine tar soap the other day to treat my son’s poison oak when we stumbled into Rivendale Bikes, Books and Hatches in Walnut Creek. The shop keeper Vince commented on my camera. When I mentioned that I mainly take moss plant photos he directed me outside to this patch of moss plants. I went outside expecting to be disappointed! On the contrary, there was a gigantic and robust patch of moss. If you go visit it for yourself, be sure to check out the steel framed bikes, meaningful books and the hand forged hatches inside! This shop rules quirkiness!

Bikes, Books and Hatches Walnut Creek CA




Bikes, Books and Hatches Walnut Creek, CA


If you love moss plant, forest and waterfalls photos, please look at my accounts on Instagram at @iheartmoss or Facebook at We offer a nature-inspired jewelry shop on this site especially for nature lovers. An antler necklace, for example, helps you meet others who share your love of the outdoors. People wear sports jerseys, college, university, team, city gear as identifiers. Show your love for mother nature. It can help you meet others who share your interest and promotes hiking and time outdoors to others. My name is Karen Nierlich and I’m an artsy photographer in Northern California. Love sharing my moss plant photos with you.

Cataract Falls, Fairfax, CA – October 2015


Cascade Falls, Marin, CA


El Niño is on it’s way in. We know that. Whether we’ll get more water —more rain—we don’t know. I’m thinking, be careful what you wish for. I think I speak for all Californians when I say we want the rain. But the possibility of mudslides and flooding is real too. Can we have the rain without destruction, please?

In the meantime, I’ve been checking out new trails. I’ve hiked the Dipsea Trail dozens of times now. From the article, 7 Best Waterfall Hikes Near San Francisco, I found Cataract Falls near Fairfax, CA.

Pluses are that it’s easy to drive to and there will be tons of moss here in Spring. Minuses are the trail is steep with lots of switch backs and there is scarcely any parking. Just 10 parking spaces at the trail head. So stay away on weekends.


Cataract Falls, Marin, CA


On our hike in October 2015 we hiked up to the top and found thick fog and mossy trees!! Delightful as I was suffering from rain and moss withdrawal. It’s been dry here since Dec. 2014..about 10 months. On the way there was a little water in the creek bed which must come from a natural spring. Below is the dry version of Cataract Falls. I promise you a picture this Winter / Spring.

Cataract Falls, Marin, CA


This is the reservoir you see as you drive in on Cascade Dr. It’s part of the Marin Water District. Low water line!





Cataract Falls, Fairfax, CA


Photos by Karen Nierlich. Love Moss and Lichen, please see Karen’s book available on or buy one directly from her.