Celebrating Big Basin’s 100th Birthday
Hiking from the Coast to
Berry Creek Falls
Perhaps the most impressive waterfall this side of Yosemite is Big Basin’s
Berry Creek Falls. It is beautiful, over sixty feet high and a rarely
viewed jewel that requires effort to see. Most people hike from the park
headquarters at about 1000 feet elevation down through giant redwoods to
the falls at 400 feet via the Sunset, Berry Creek, Skyline-to-the-Sea
Trails loop. It’s an 11.5-mile, five to six hour loop. But I decided to
take another route.
Instead of starting from headquarters, I drove around to Waddell Beach on
Highway 1, then walked up Skyline-to-the-Sea, or in this case what might
be called Sea-to-Berry Creek Falls Trail. I found that the hiker’s trail
was closed, so I shared a wide, relatively smooth dirt road with
bicyclists. Although horses and their riders can use this road, too, I
never saw any horses. It is, however, a popular horse trail. In fact,
mountain realtor Niki Lamb says she has ridden it many times.
I saw thousands of spring flowers in the first few miles up the trail.
Lilies, wild iris, California poppies, California lilac, sticky
monkeyflowers, Indian paintbrush, succulent live-forevers and other
flowers in lavenders, pinks, purples, oranges, yellows and reds. The first
mile or so is open and marshy. Small vegetable and flower farms border the
trail, but by the time you reach Alder horse camp, the redwood and pine
forest closes in.
You walk along a lovely stream, West Waddell Creek, occasionally crossing
over and back. The dirt road becomes narrower, then before Camp Herbert,
it disappears, becoming a narrow trail but still passable by bicycles and
sure-footed horses. About a half mile from the falls, however, the trail
for horses and bicycles is blocked by a stream crossing over large rocks.
A hitching post is available to tie up your horse or lock your bike.
The next half-mile is a rugged but most interesting climb. I felt that I
had entered the forest primeval. Huge fallen trees, giant ferns and heavy
forest make you think of dinosaurs and a time before man.
You first hear Berry Creek Falls, then you see it. An observation deck
gives you an excellent view. The falls creates its own microclimate, and
you can feel the cool breeze blowing off the falling water. It’s a good
place to eat a sandwich, talk with fellow hikers and rest for the walk
Although I considered looping over to Chalk Mountain and down Westridge
Trail, the climb up to 1609 feet was not appealing, so I doubled back down
the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail to the ocean, where I was met with cool fog,
a bracing wind and a fellow hiker who told me about longer hikes in Nepal.
The hike ends at the horse camp near Waddell Beach. If West Waddell Creek
isn’t too high, you can walk from the horse camp over to the Rancho del
Oso nature and history center via the Marsh Trail. (The center is only 0.7
of a mile away.) I was curious about the center because of Holly Reed’s
recent MNN article (Reed, Holly, Coastal Access, Rancho del Oso, July
2001, page 22). The Center building is open only on weekend afternoons,
but interpretive trail booklets are available ($1.00) to guide you around
the one-mile nature trail. In the months to come, our calendar will list
guided tours and other events at the center.
Yes, the 13-mile walk was long but it was well worth the trip. I
especially recommend it for bicyclists, horse people and dedicated hikers.
This walk through Big Basin was brought to you by Josephine Clifford
McCrackin, Andrew Hill, and the Sempervirens Club, whose call to “Save the
Redwoods” resulted in our first state park. As Josephine said, the enemy
of the redwoods was not fire, but “greed, rapacity, the vandalism that
would hack and cut and mutilate the grandest, most magnificent forest that
can be found on the face of the globe.”
Many special events are scheduled for Big Basin’s centennial. For
information, visit www.mountainparks.org/centen.html or call 831-335-3174.