The trail follows Zim Zim Creek four miles into a valley beneath Blue Ridge to the falls. Steps are retraced back out to complete the approximate eight mile hike.
Destination Distance From Downtown
4 of 5 diamonds
Elevation gain is minimal along the eight miles of Zim Zim, however, the trail is quite steep leading to the lower section of the falls. Additionally, the environmental challenges inherent to the arid valley take their toll. We recommend Zim Zim Falls for the practiced and determined outdoor enthusiast.
Time To Complete
Creek crossings take consideration and time. Also, it is slow-going down the steep trail to the falls. We spent a little over a half hour drinking in the serenity of the falls. If you are the determined type, or in the mind to run, you could shave off some time.
Late winter and early spring are prime times to explore Zim Zim. It becomes brittle and inhospitable in summer months making it a sublime climate for rattlesnakes and insects. Due to the sun exposure, we recommend getting to the trailhead early in the day.
The Zim Zim Falls trail is great for dogs with several creek crossings allowing them to cool down and get hydrated. However, long-haired dogs will collect plenty of stickers and burs on their travels. Our short-haired trail dogs came home with a few ticks and fox tails. Also, due to rattlesnakes and the tall grasses, we wouldn't recommend allowing dogs to lead on the trail.
There are no fees to park or hike at Zim Zim Falls. Signs posted give indication that camping is permitted year round.
Zim Zim Falls offers elusive solitude, but it comes with a price. Approximately two hours from Sacramento, the drive to and around Lake Berryessa is at times scenic, but very remote. Sacramento is two hours away from the metropolis of San Francisco and about an hour away from the picturesque Sierra mountains; both representing major weekend destinations. The two hour drive to Zim Zim Falls, is an investment to get absolutely nowhere. For some discerning outdoorsmen, this is time well spent.
What Makes It Great
The trail, or shall we say overgrown tire tracks, is flanked with unruly wild grasses and thistles that whip and chew away at your calves and ankles. That being said, if you want a taste of what the native Sacramento valley landscape once looked like, you won’t get more authenticity than Zim Zim Falls. You are surrounded by hills and valleys covered in sheets of indigenous grasses dusted with rambunctiously vibrant wildflowers and smudged with wild herbs such as celery and mugwort.
Following the seldom-used tire tracks four miles into the valley you’ll cross the shallow creek bed of Zim Zim Creek eight times. Elevation gain is minimal along the valley floor, but don’t underestimate this trail. You are completely subjected to the sun with only an oak tree, or lonely pine, scattered about to provide you momentary relief from the exposure. As you pass through the tall grasses, ticks hungrily latch on, intent on making you their next meal. Large neon-yellow flies announce their presence with a bite, and gnats and midges swarm about your face. The challenges of Zim Zim Falls are purely environmental and subsequently, mentally straining.
The last quarter mile of the hike, a large red boulder marks the spot where the trail branches up the hill to the right. Here you’ll abruptly and swiftly climb nearly 400 feet up the hillside. As you reach the top of the ridge you will be gifted with several lovely views of the falls and panoramic views of the surrounding valley and mountain ridges. You can choose to follow the trail straight ahead to the top of the falls, or you can take an extremely steep branch to the left, leading to a lower section of the falls. We recommend trekking poles and hiking boots with solid ankle support and deeply grooved tread to make the steep descent on loose dirt less treacherous.
Zim Zim Falls feels like a treasure in this arid, wayward landscape. Spilling off of a tall, dark ridge the cool waters offer respite and refreshment. We retraced our steps back to the red rock and then out the valley to the trailhead near the confluence of Zim Zim Creek and Eticuera Creek.
Who is Going to Love It
Zim Zim Falls is for the reclusive hiker. The outdoorsman who relishes the wild and the environmental endurance it brings; someone who finds reprieve in long winding roads leading to nowhere. Families would likely enjoy nearby Lake Berryessa much more than the shallow waters and tall grasses of Zim Zim Creek. Regardless of who you are, we recommend pants, bug spray, sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, plenty of water, and pants. Yes, pants are worth mentioning twice.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Sacramento, you’ll take Interstate 80 west to Davis. Then you’ll take 113 to Covell Boulevard. Turning left onto Covell, this turns into Highway 128, passing through Winters, Monticello Dam, and Lake Berryessa. You will take a right on Berryessa/Knoxville road and follow this for several miles past Spanish Flats, the northern shores of Lake Berryessa, and into the hills below Blue Ridge. Parking for the trailhead is on the right at the confluence of Zim Zim Creek and Eticuera Creek. There are no bathrooms. The trailhead is across the road behind a green gate.