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! (Continued below.)
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.
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 will be taking interconnected trails so a map in necessary.
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 most rangers like helping people choose hikes.
Strenuous Hike: All three trails to Berry Creek Falls are pretty strenuous and all have different sights and scenery 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 the 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: The 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 9 am 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.
I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on instagram.com/iheartmoss or facebook.com/iheartmoss. We also have a nature-inspired jewelry shop especially for nature lovers.