Hiking Waterfalls in Northern California  by Tracy Salcedo-Chourré

Hiking Waterfalls in Northern California Guide Book

by Tracy Salcedo-Chourré (Falcon Guides)
Hiking Waterfalls in Northern California  by Tracy Salcedo-Chourré
It turns out that hiking NorCal waterfalls is like sailing or skiing: You need the right conditions. California has a rainy season and a dry season, which means many falls are ephemeral, running for only a handful of months before evaporating. Thus, winter and spring are optimal for waterfall hiking, with watercourses filled by either rainfall or snowmelt.

© 2015 Tracy Salcedo-Chourrand233;/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Hiking Waterfalls in Northern California" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 99.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 99.

This seasonal waterfall is reached via an easy walk through rolling coastal hills. This waterfall is no stunner. But these hills are parched much of the year, which makes water, and waterfalls, a sought-after break from the ordinary. The fall is only viable in a wet winter and is especially vigorous after a good rainstorm. And, as with many hikes to less-than-stellar seasonal waterfalls, it’s not so much about the destination as getting there.
Oakland, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
A long, lovely coastal ramble leads to Alamere Falls, which drops directly onto Wildcat Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Alamere Falls, like a wild rose, displays its beauty without reservation but is prickly and difficult to reach. When engorged with winter rains the waters run muddy and swift, tumbling over.
Bolinas, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.5
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A short hike leads to the welcoming expanse of sunny slabs that spreads below the stair-step drop of Bassi Falls. Located on the Bassi Fork of Big Silver Creek, Bassi Falls spills into a channel on a rolling terrace of granite open to the sun and sky. The surrounding ridges are shaded with ponderosa pines and incense cedar, which also hide the reservoirs—Ice House and Union Valley—that draw visitors to this remote locale on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. A scattering of cedar and pine also finds purchase on the rocky borders of the waterfall, which arcs down a broken cliff face before disappearing into the boulders at its base.
Placerville, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
A steep scramble drops to a half moon of short falls that drop into a small pool in South Fork Battle Creek. Spilling over a bouldery ledge nearly two stories high, Battle Creek Falls fills a small pool in the South Fork Battle Creek near the Battle Creek Campground. The waterfall can be seen from the neighboring forest road: It flows year-round, pplitting into several channels as water levels drop later in summer and autumn. The pool and creek are a cool destination for campers and locals on hot summer days.
Chester, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.2
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A short walk along the interpretive Sierra Discovery Trail leads to a pretty waterfall and provides a lesson in emigrant history. Hold out your left hand, palm up, fingers spread. Now picture this: Mount Shasta is at the tip of your thumb. Lassen Peak is at the tip of your index finger. The Sutter Buttes are on your palm. And the major rivers draining the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada into the mighty Sacramento—the Pit, the Feather, the Yuba, the American—flow down the gaps, watering the Great Valley at California’s heart. Talk about falling water … This image is but one that is described on the interpretive displays at the beginning of the Sierra Discovery Trail. In addition to the hydrology lesson on your fingertips, you can also learn about the Native peoples who hunted and foraged in the High Sierra, the emigrants who made their way through the dangerous mountain gaps (they lowered their wagons 700 feet into the Bear River valley!), the wildlife and plant life that thrives in the woods and meadows, and the hydroelectric power generated by the water that flows out of the high country.
Nevada City, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.1
A long ramble down through redwood groves and along fern-filled creek beds leads to the platform overlooking sheltered Berry Creek Falls. A long meander down the Skyline to the Sea Trail, through glade after glade of majestic coast redwoods, leads to one of Big Basin Redwoods State Park’s premier attractions, Berry Creek Falls. The platform overlooking the 60-foot fall, which fans out across the dark-rock face behind, is often crowded with appreciative visitors taking snapshots and enjoying lunch before beginning the long climb back to the trailhead. The falls are a worthy destination, tucked in a narrow box canyon shaded by redwoods and flanked by slopes thick with fern and pocked with moss-covered rocks.
Boulder Creek, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.6
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A varied trail loop links Big Basin Redwoods’ main attraction, Berry Creek Falls, with the two equally stunning but less-visited falls that lie upstream. Silver Falls flies over a relatively sheer cliff into a small pool, while Golden Cascades tumbles over tiers near the apex of the loop. This long loop, which takes in Berry Creek’s three waterfalls before curling back toward home, is arguably outside the realm of a day hike. Indeed, it can be part of an overnight trip, because Sunset Camp lies along the route. But for hardy hikers who want to see what lies above lovely Berry Creek Falls, it’s worth the effort. Just be sure you alot enough time to complete the whole loop in the span of a short winter’s day.
Boulder Creek, CA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 12.3
These falls are an eye-catcher as you descend scenic CA 49 between Bassetts Station and Downieville.
Camptonville, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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This seasonal waterfall spills over a broken bluff above CA 89 near Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Southwest Entrance.
Chester, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.4
Charged by rainfall in the Mayacamas Mountains, this waterfall is one of many headliners along the trails in this well-tended nature preserve. The lovely and secluded seasonal waterfall in the Bouverie Preserve, most vigorous toward the end of a winter with healthy rainfall, plummets down a brushy cliff in an alcove of the steep and heavily wooded Mayacamas Mountains. The hike to the fall is a stellar, docent-led immersion in the nature of the Sonoma Valley. The 535-acre preserve is the legacy of architect David Bouverie, who welcomed a number of mid-twentieth-century writers and artists to his Valley of the Moon property, most famously food maven M.F.K. Fisher, who lived on the ranch for a time.
Glen Ellen, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
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Climb an old logging road to a series of short falls on Brandy Creek. Brandy Creek Falls descend in low-angled stair steps, fanning over slick, shiny slabs and weaving through boulder-choked channels. The path that explores the falls wanders over footbridges and tangles of tree roots that can be slippery in wet weather or when soaked by mist. The complexity of the walking and the different faces of the falls make for an enlivening end-of-trail experience—a nice conclusion to an otherwise straightforward climb through a dark, dense woodland.
Whiskeytown, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
This roadside cascade flows year-round. No need to hike; just pull off US 50 as you’re climbing from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe and enjoy.
Placerville, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.8
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Drive into the Yosemite Valley proper, and Bridalveil is the first fall you’ll see, spilling over the shadowy cliff wall nearly opposite El Capitan. While many visitors simply stop alongside the road to view the waterfall, a short paved trail leads closer to its base. When Bridalveil Fall is fully charged, its spray washes over viewers gathered on the tiered platforms at trail’s end. Expect to jostle with fellow hikers for the best camera angles during late spring and early summer, when the valley begins to clog with seasonal tourists. But regardless of whether the overlook is teeming or empty, the up-close views of the fall, the roar of its descent, and the thrill of its proximity will satisfy any waterfall aficionado.
Yosemite, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
A loop through history also offers views of seasonal Brooks Creek Falls. The seasonal falls on Brooks Creek can’t be reached directly, but a nice loop hike through coastal San Pedro Valley County Park offers unimpeded views of the narrow 175-foot ribbon, a striking splash of white amid green scrub when swollen with rainfall. When the falls dry up in summer, the stained cliff still draws the eye, a streak of dark amid scrub dried by the season. But even when the rains don’t fall, fog and moist ocean breezes, a weather mainstay in Pacifica, regularly blow into the hollows of coastal hills. That incessant moisture supports the lush coastal scrub that pillows the lower slopes of Montara Mountain and helps to sustain flows in San Pedro Creek and Brooks Creek, which wind through alder and willow to the San Pedro Valley floor.
Pacifica, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
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An entire rock face spills water at Burney Falls, with the creek pouring over the top and seepage from an underground reservoir seething through cracks in the volcanic matrix. Burney Falls never fails. The massive spill—more than 100 million gallons per day—is perennial: Whatever snow falls in winter feeds both the creek and spring-fed reservoir that fuel Burney, whether it is enough to bury nearby Lassen Peak in 40-foot drifts or the feeble quantities that California may see in a drought season. The falls are the centerpiece of a premier park and recreational area in the north-central part of the state, in the southernmost reaches of the Cascade Range. Lake Britton, opening just down-stream, and the recreational opportunities of the Pit River add to the region’s allure.
Burney, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.3
These falls flow year-round but are ethereal, enlivening a walk through history on a rail-trail in the Sierra foothills.
Auburn, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
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Follow a popular trail into the Trinity Alps Wilderness to the lowest of a series of waterfalls on Canyon Creek.
Weaverville, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.3
Less than a mile inland from McWay Falls, Canyon Falls dances down a narrow gorge that seems a world away. Follow McWay Creek downstream, and you can witness its final descent into the sea. Follow McWay Creek upstream, and you can watch it tumble down a steep gorge crowded with redwoods. The trailhead is located at the uphill end of the day-use parking area, signed for the Canyon and Ewoldsen Trails. Pass through the picnic area, squeeze past a large boulder, and begin climbing into McWay Canyon. The creek is a boisterous companion, running in cataracts with drops 2 to 4 feet high.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
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Follow a peaceful section of South Fork Tuolumne River to the jumble of river rocks and Carlon Falls. In the wake of the 2013 Rim Fire, the hike to Carlon Falls has become a study in contrasts. Along the South Fork Tuolumne River a verdant riparian habitat thrives, with reeds, willow, alder, and primordial clusters of Indian rhubarb, with its giant umbrella-like leaves, cluttering the banks. But just a few hundred yards uphill to the east, the thick evergreen forest is scarred by the fire, the understory burned clear and the trunks scorched. The riverside is inviting and vibrant, the forest side is creaky and vaguely unnerving, and the juxtaposition makes the walk to the falls all the more invigorating.
Groveland, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.3
A hike to this seasonal waterfall features superlative views. The waterfall also flows through the breeding ground of the rare foothill yellow-legged frog, which may be seen clinging to the rocks in the pool at the base. It’s amazing how two waterfalls in the same watershed, located just a few miles from each other, can have such different settings. Carson Falls, facing west, is surrounded by grassland, semiarid as the season creeps into summer and drying to a trickle by August. Meanwhile, the canyon holding Cataract Falls, facing north, stays moist and green year-round, even as the cataracts dry out. Which is better?
Corte Madera, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
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