Yesterday I had a chance to revisit one of my all time favorite hikes, the Sunset/Skyline to Sea loop in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This scenic route through the redwoods features a series of waterfalls and is the perfect shaded hike for a hot summer day. This hike covers approximately 9.5 miles and traverses 2,874 feet in elevation gain and will probably take you between four and five hours to complete.
The top falls at Berry Creek. Photo credit: Lisette
When you enter the park, be sure to stop by the headquarters and buy your parking pass FIRST. If you arrive after 8:00 a.m. on a weekend you will likely have to park a notable distance from headquarters, by picking up your permit first you can start the hike closer to the trailhead without doubling back.
Most people start the hike clockwise, taking the Skyline to Sea trail and hiking up the falls, returning via the Sunset trail. I prefer to start with the Sunset trail and come down the falls, ending with the Skyline to Sea portion. This route allows you to get the hotter, more exposed portions of the trail out of the way early in the day and gives you a shorter hike back after you see the falls.
The middle cascade at Berry Creek. Photo credit: Lisette
Whichever way you choose to navigate the hike, the Berry Creek series of falls is one of the best waterfall hikes in the Bay Area, with plenty of great viewing spots to relax and take a break for lunch. Unfortunately this hike is also exceptionally popular, so it can be tricky to snap pictures without capturing the crowds as well. You’ll notice as you move along the series of falls that the top cascades are wide and sloping, with gorgeous red rock underneath and pools you can dip your feet into. The lower falls are more dramatic, with higher drops and more conventional landscapes.
Recommended gear: good hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen.
On your way home after this hike, you may want to reward yourself by dropping by some of the local wineries off Highway 9 like Mountain Winery, Savannah Chanelle or the Cinnabar tasting room in downtown Saratoga.