Escape into cool groves of towering coast redwood trees hiking the trails of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Designated in 1902, Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park, protecting ancient trees from logging and preserving the legacy of the majestic redwood ecosystem for future generations. Of the park’s 80 miles of trails, the hike to Berry Creek Falls and beyond is a classic, tracing steep hillsides and creeks, winding through redwood groves and passing several waterfalls. You can make this hike an out-and-back or connect with nearby trails for several loop options. No matter which route you follow, be sure to take your time on the trail to look up and revel in the peaceful stillness of the stately trees lining your path.
What Makes It Great
The soft shade and cools streams of the Berry Creek Falls trail offer respite from a hot summer day. During colder months, experience the redwoods in their preferred state: blanketed by damp, swirling mists. The trail reflects the steep topography of the area, descend to the valley floor and walk alongside creeks, and then test your legs as you ascend and traverse hillsides. Hike a portion of the 33-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea trail, one of the region’s premiere backpacking trips.
The tumbling cataracts of Berry Creek, Silver and Golden Falls provide stunning highlights along the trail. Sit at the viewing platform beneath Berry Creek Falls and watch the water tumbling over the ledge 65 feet above, and plummeting into the pool below. Peaceful scenery and rich riparian ecosystems take your mind off your tired legs as you continually climb and descend during this 10-mile excursion.
Start on the Redwood Loop trail across from the park headquarters and follow signs for the Skyline to the Sea towards Berry Creek Falls. Climb gently out of the valley through redwood groves. Reach a crest where you intersect a fire road, and continue along the Skyline to the Sea trail, dropping as you trace the edge of the hillside.
When you reach Kelly Creek along the valley floor, the redwoods rise more thickly from the sides of the trail, casting dappled light on the soft forest floor and muffling the noise of the creek. This section of trail boasts the largest old-growth giants in the park. Cross bridges over seasonal drainages and walk alongside fallen giants, their trunks rising above your head. Pass the cutoff for the Timm’s Creek trail amidst large boulders at the confluence of Kelly Creek and West Waddell Creek at about 3.1 miles. Continue along the trail following West Waddell Creek until you reach a final ascent to a lovely viewing platform overlooking the lush rock wall of Berry Creek Falls. From here, the hike out and back is 9 miles roundtrip. Continue to the top of the falls. Next up, Silver Falls cascades over orange sandstone. Follow the path as it climbs up next to the falls, aided by steel cables. Shortly after Silver Falls comes Golden Falls, smooth and slide-like. Turn back here for a 10.4-mile hike. To make the full 12-mile loop, turn right towards Sunset Camp and follow the Sunset trail through forest that feels different than the damp, woody ravines along Skyline to the Sea, characterized by knobcone pine, live oak and shrubs.
When you reach the intersection with the fire road again, add another 1.4 miles by hiking up to Ocean View Summit at 1689 ft. As the name suggests, on a clear day you may spot the Pacific Ocean to the west, though a thick layer of coastal fog resting on the far ridgeline often blocks the view. Continue back to the Sunset Trail, and take the woodsy Dool trail back to the park headquarters. In late summer, look out for huckleberries along the trail. By the time you have reached the parking lot, your legs may be tired, but you will have spent hours basking in the peace of redwoods, overlooking waterfalls and if you were lucky, catching a glimpse of the ocean.
Who is Going to Love It
Avid hikers looking for a challenging, rewarding and scenic half-day to full day hike. The trail to Berry Creek Falls is considered strenuous, though intermediate hikers should have no problem with proper footwear, plenty of time, and adequate food and water. The trail is narrow, and in some places, steep. Hikers looking for a great introduction to Bay Area hiking will love Big Basin State Park. These trails have it all—redwoods, waterfalls, creeks, ocean views and diverse flora.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The Skyline to the Sea and Sunset Trails are easily accessible from the main parking lot at Big Basin park headquarters.
Do not underestimate the windy drive to access the park.