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California Redwoods and Waterfalls: Big Basin Berry Creek Falls

The Berry Creek Falls Loop in the Forest of Big Basin - The Trail.
by Scott Peden, Photographer, local plant expert and nature guide
and by J. Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History
by Michael G. Barbour (Editor),
John Evarts, and Marjorie Popper

What can you see and hear by walking a particular trail every month? The 10.3-mile hike (measured by Ranger Todd Barto and the Orange Wheel of Trail Measurement in April 2005) Berry Creek Falls Loop Trail (California, USA) is a loop through redwood forests, riparian habitats, and chaparral. We record the flora and fauna every month:

Check out our AMAZING graphs of slug and flower counts for each month (opens a new window).
Flower are our stars 7-year summary of flower-slug-newt data.
Check out our tree list.
Archival information for 2001: September, October, November, December.

The Berry Creek Falls Loop Trail.

Historical notes:

Berry Creek, and Falls, is named for Mr. Berry, who had a cabin just below the falls.
Timms Creek is the creek that joins West Waddell Creek, in-between the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and Sunset Trail. It is shown (but not named) on the Park Map.

Trail time:
All trail mile markers are known to be approximate. Signs for a "Strenuous 6-hour walk" are posted at Middle Ridge Fire Road where it meets Skyline to the Sea Trail, and Sunset Trail, for the portion of that trail that is roughly an 8-mile trip.

It is roughly 10 miles for the complete loop from the Rangers Station (from Ranger Todd Barto and the Orange Wheel of Trail Measurement in April 2005).

From Sunset Trail Camp marker, it feels easier, with less elevation climb, to go back down the falls to Skyline to the Sea Trail and back to park Headquarters that way. It is only 850 feet elevation climb that way, but closer to 1300 foot elevation climb taking Sunset Trail back from the Camp cutoff marker.

The Berry Creek Falls Loop Trail (in Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek) is a gloriously beautiful hike of moderate difficulty. Allow 6 hours, though it can be walked in under 4 hours if serious cardiovascular exercise is appropriate. On the other hand, if you are a photographer, 9 hours is your more probably time! You decide.

Respect the trail restrictions, in courtesy for the Forest and other users. Hikers only. No dogs. No horses. No mountain bikes.

Mile 1 Head west from Park HQ, across the bridge over Opal Creek.
Turn left on the Skyline to the Sea Trail, through redwoods.
At the next junction, fork right and start the switchback ascent out of the Big Basin.
This is the first of many ridges.
Miles 2-3 Crossing Middle Ridge Fire Road, continue on Skyline to the Sea, across the fire road.
You descend, first going by Kelly Creek which flows into West Waddell Creek.
This portion of the trail is the most moist and has a great variety of wildlife and wildflowers.
Miles 4 Continue on Skyline to the Sea, cross West Waddell Creek at a delightful bridge, which has small trolls lurking beneath it.
Listen for the trolls mumbling as you cross.
You begin to hear and then see Berry Creek Falls, and you reach the first viewing seat.
If you time your hike so you arrive here about 11:30 a.m. (summer time) or 10:30 a.m. (winter time) the sun will be behind you and you have a good chance of seeing a spray bow.
A few hundred feet down Skyline to the Sea Trail, cross Berry Creek, then turn right on to the Berry Creek Trail (otherwise known as Sunset Trail),
which ascends to a marvelous viewing platform close to the Berry Creek Falls.
Sit here and admire the world around you.
Mile 5 If you feel you are ready to go back the shorter way, retrace your steps.
But you will be missing something delightful.
It's better to continue along Berry Creek Trail, tall, slender Silver Falls is another good "just being" place.
Continue carefully and cautiously and only if safe, because the trail is now carved into the rock ledge at the Falls with a cable guard rail for additional support.
A little farther upstream is the sequence of giant steps in the rock that forms the orange-gold Cascade Falls.
Golden Falls is just above Cascade Falls, and the trail finally turns away from West Berry Creek.
Mile 6 Climbing up and up, you pass from the redwood forest, just as you see the trail marker for Sunset Trail Camp, into a relatively open area of chaparral,
starting with a few Madrone and a few Knobcone pine with Usnea Lichen hanging gracefully from their branches.
The Shrubbery here are many varieties of Manzanita and some Huckleberry bushes too.
Miles 7-9 This is the quietest part of the hike after you re-enter the Coniferous Forest.
Relatively few people and relatively little wildlife in the redwood community in the steep valleys with their streams.
You may be getting tired, and you have seen the most beautiful, dramatic, and varied part of the hike.
For this section you need to been sure that you have enough water with you to take a few refreshing mouthfuls every 10 minutes or so.
Eat that extra apple you put in your fanny pack, or some Gorpic (Good Ol' Raisins, Peanuts, Including Chocolate).
Enjoy the regrowth of the redwood forest here.
During late winter and spring, watch for brilliant banks of redwood violet (which is neither red nor violet but yellow).
Mile 10 Cross the Middle Ridge fire road, descend back into the Big Basin, cross Opal Creek, and you are back at Park HQ.
Visit the Museum and visitors center to learn a little more about Big Basin and its inhabitants.


Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History
by Michael G. Barbour (Editor) et al. .

See also: