April 30, 2011

Big Basin-Berry Creek Falls

One of the reasons we camped at Big Basin Redwoods State Park was to do the hike to Berry Creek Falls. We had done this hike once before years ago. We had thought about doing it again and since we got plenty of rain this winter we thought it would be a good time. We made the short drive from our campsite at Huckleberry Campground to the park headquarters. It was just before nine in the morning and the parking lots were already filling up. There is a day use fee of $10 which is waived for campers. We parked by the Redwood Trail sign and followed the path to the left of the Campfire Center. After passing the only restrooms we would see on our hike, we crossed on a bridge over Opal Creek. The trail split at this point with the left leading to Skyline to the Sea Trail and the right leading to Sunset Trail. Either direction would have worked for the loop hike but since there was a sign to the left warning that part of Skyline to the Sea trail was closed we went right towards Sunset Trail. The trail was broad and fairly flat at this point. After following along the creek for about half a mile we came to the junction for Sunset Trail. Aside from trails signs, we also saw signs that there was a trail race taking place that morning with distances ranging from 10k to Ultramarathon. We headed left onto Sunset Trail and followed the path as it began to climb. It wasn't long before we came upon another junction which is a connector trail to Skyline to the Sea Trail. We took this connector trail on our way back from the falls but for now we continued onto Sunset Trail. The path was mostly shaded for several miles due to the surrounding Redwood trees and there was constant elevation change from this point forward. We passed a few banana slugs and we also came across several runners headed in the opposite direction. After nearly five miles the trail headed out of the shade of the large Redwoods into an exposed rocky area. It felt like we had stepped into a completely different park. There were nice views of the trees and other foliage but with the sun directly on us we were anxious to move back into the shade.

 Luckily we were able to do so after about half a mile, when the trail became Berry Creek Falls Trail. We could hear rushing water and knew we were close to the first falls. We continued as the trail descended and soon were able to see Golden Falls. There were several places to get a good view of the falls and although there were a couple of groups there at the same time it did not feel crowded. We took our time admiring the beauty and taking several pictures before heading back on the trail to Silver Falls. Silver Falls is actually connected to Golden Falls but we weren't able to figure out exactly where one ended and the other began. The path really narrowed here as it was alongside the edge of the cliff. There was a guide wire to the right that we recommend using since the rocky path is slippery here. Back on a dirt trail we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent Berry Creek Falls. We descended until we came to a viewing platform. We were lucky that there were just a few people there when we arrived so we were able to get a good view of the beautiful falls and take some great pictures. Being about halfway through the hike we were definitely hungry and decided to take our lunch break here. There was a bench on the platform but since it was taken we sat right on the platform itself. Great place for a break if it is not too crowded. Re-energized we got back on the trail, crossed over a creek again and made our way up to another bench which also has a great view of the falls. We took a few more pictures and then made our way back onto Skyline to the Sea Trail. We were met yet again with constant elevation change but at least the rest of the hike back was shaded. At about the nine mile mark we came across the connector for Sunset Trail which we were forced to take as Skyline to the Sea Trail was closed beyond this point. Once back on Sunset Trail we retraced our steps back to the parking lot and our car. We finally were back to the full lot after about 11.5 miles. The hike took us about five hours, including breaks. With all of the water fall this year it proved to be a great time to do this hike. We definitely recommend it but keep in mind that it is a strenuous hike with constant elevation change adding up to about 2000 feet overall. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete it.