California Trails

The Best Day Hikes in America: Berry Creek Falls Loop

California’s oldest state park hides champion old-growth redwoods in tight gorges and steep, mossy canyons threaded with waterfalls.


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Berry Creek Falls: The Golden Cascadescorpio-tiger on flickr

It’s like nothing else you can find in the Bay Area. This popular dayhike in Big Basin Redwoods State Park traverses a waterfall-filled gorge and takes you far away from roads through a lush redwood forest. The trail starts at the park headquarters where you’ll take the Sunset Trail past Opal Creek before starting a steep 300-foot climb to Middle Ridge. For the next few miles, continue on the Sunset Trail through a forest of old-growth redwoods and dense tanoak. Cross the bridge over West Waddell Creek, then continue on Sunset Trail, then begin a short, but difficult, climb up to a ridge. The trail will then begin to slope downhill to a small creek. You’ll soon come to a clearing, then a view of Berry Creek Falls.

After the clearing, you will link up with Berry Creek Falls Trail, which will descend to two large waterfalls and eventually Berry Creek Falls at mile six. There is a viewing platform for the falls, which is often somewhat crowded. In this area you will also start to see larger redwoods and more lush forest. 

After admiring the falls, take a left onto Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail where you’ll cross back over Waddell Creek and continue into Waddell Creek Canyon, home to the largest redwoods in the park and the lushest forest on this hike. After crossing the creek, you’ll climb out of the canyon and the forest will thin a bit, allowing for sunlight to stream through the trees. From here, it is a simple downhill path back to the trailhead. 

Do it

Distance 11 miles (loop) Trailhead 37.172176,-122.222322 Drive time One hour from San Jose Season Year-round Contact Big Basin Redwoods State Park: website, (831) 338-8860 Fee $10 vehicle day-use fee