Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Waterfalls of the San Francisco Bay Area

Berry Creek Falls
The Bay Area is known as one of the top trail networks in the United States. We have an extensive network of trails that spread out through dozens of parks and open space preserves. Our Redwood trees are a known highlight of the bay area but our waterfalls seem to be rarely talked about. Some people that I talk to don't even realize that we have waterfalls in our parks. That to me is unfortunate. I would suggest to you that if you have never seen Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwood State Park you really need to go check it out. This will likely spur you on to go find some of the other falls in the area. They really are quite beautiful and well worth the time and effort it takes to go see them. The rainy season is approaching. The waterfalls will soon be in full force. Continue reading for a list of great waterfalls and where you can see them in the Bay Area.

  • Waterfall Trail, Garland Ranch: This waterfall near Carmel Valley only flows a few weeks a year
  • Uvas Canyon, Uvas County Park: Includes five waterfalls along a trail loop in oak woodland. Known as the best waterfalls in the southbay.
  • Murietta Falls, Ohlone Wilderness: This one takes a lot of work to get to, but it’s apparently beautiful.
  • Donner Creek Falls, Mount Diablo State Park: Flowing off the north side of Mount Diablo, this waterfall is very nice after heavy rains.
  • Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin State Park: Surrounded by lush redwood forest, this is my favorite waterfall in the Bay Area.
  • Silver Falls and Golden Cascade, Big Basin State Park: Located about 1 mile upstream from Berry Creek Falls, these falls are composed of several cascades and include the same lush setting as Berry Creek Falls. The trail also passes right next to the top of Silver Falls climbing over steps cut into the rock.
  • Sempervirens Falls, Big Basin State Park: A small waterfall near the park headquarters worth a visit if you have a few extra minutes after gazing at giant redwoods.

  • Five Finger Falls

  • Five Finger Falls, Forest of the Nisine Marks: A small ~20 ft falls falling into a cavernous rock formation in a lush setting with (you guessed it) five finger ferns! This small falls flows from a small tributary of Aptos Creek so higher flow is needed, but be aware that crossings of Aptos Creek are required.
  • Maple Falls, Forest of the Nisine Marks: A small waterfall like Five Finger Falls, but in a nice setting. Also flows from the upper reaches of Bridge Creek so higher flow is required for it to look impressive.
  • Castle Rock Falls, Castle Rock State Park: A 75 foot drop over shear cliffs that comes alive after rains. The Saratoga Gap Trail passes above the falls so the accessible view is only from above.
  • Tiptoe Falls, Portola Redwoods State Park: This falls is only 6 feet tall, but sometimes the delicate falls are the pretiest. It’s located in a redwood forest with lush ferns.
  • Pomponio Falls, Memorial County Park: Peterson Creek drops 24 feet into Pescadero Creek. Easily accessible, but might be impossible to view when Pescadero Creek is flowing high.
  • Jones Gulch Falls, Pescadero County Park: Another delicate falls near Pescadero Creek in a sublime setting, this one can be viewed from the Jones Gulch Bridge.
  • Brooks Falls, San Pedro Valley County Park: A tall, thin waterfall flowing off of Montara Mountain and seen from Brooks Trail that is only flowing after rains. There is no close-up view of the falls, which is surrounded by cliffs and brush, but you get a good profile view from the trail.
  • Morses Gulch Falls, GGNRA: This is a hidden falls that is located off Highway 1 and up an unmaintained pathway. I have yet to see this falls.

  • Steep Ravine Falls

    Steep Ravine Falls, Mt. Tamalpais State Park: A series of cascades along Steep Ravine and a small waterfall next to a wooden ladder combined with old growth redwoods make this one a highlight on Mount Tamalpais.
  • Cataract Falls, Mt. Tamalpais Watershed: The most famous falls in Marin County with numerous waterfalls and an extremely lush setting. This is a must-see after a heavy rain.
  • Carson Falls, Mt. Tamalpais Watershed: Near Pine Mountain in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed, this falls is apparently spectacular after rains. It’s on my list to see.
  • Phantom Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore: Aptly named, this falls is usually non-existent. However, after a heavy rain, this 160 ft waterfall comes to life, tumbling over shear ocean cliffs to the beach. It is located north of Wildcat camp and low-tide conditions are necessary to walk the beach to see it. This could be an ideal time to see the Phantom!
  • Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore: An iconic waterfall tumbling from ocean cliffs into the ocean. There is descent flow in this falls even during drier periods. It can be reached in a few miles from Palomarin.
  • Stairstep Falls, Samuel P. Taylor State Park: A small waterfall that might be worth a visit after a heavy rain.

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