Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Falls
14.0 MILES / 3,575 FT ELEVATION
Berry Creek Falls is a popular destination within Big Basin Redwoods State Park just north of Santa Cruz, California. The set of waterfalls that make up Berry Creek Falls lie at the end of Berry Creek close to where it joins with West Waddell Creek. There are many ways to approach these falls, and this post specifically covers the out-and-back approach from Waddell Beach on the coast. This approach is a great way to see the California Newt and Rough-skinned Newt, especially if it has been raining recently.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California's oldest state park, established in 1902, and contains the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. This park is located in the mountains on the Bay Area Peninsula south of San Francisco and north of Santa Cruz. The park contains many popular hiking trails as well as options for camping and backpacking.
There are several ways to approach the falls. The approach covered in this post is starting at Waddell Beach on the coast and hiking 7 miles north to the falls. You can also begin at the Big Basin State Park Parking Lot and hike the 10 mile loop down to the falls. The benefit of approaching from Waddell Beach is you are more likely to see the California Newt and Rough-skinned Newt on the trail near the Waddell Creek bed. When we went in the light rain they were everywhere at the beginning of the trail, which was exciting given that these items are currently endangered due to habitat destruction and invasive species.
Make your way up Waddell Creek on Skyline-to-the-Sea trail, passing over from one bank to the other with the help of the bridges across the creek.
WARNING: If there has been significant rain recently, some of the bridges may be washed out or parts of the trail impassable which is something that we have encountered. You can get trail updates here.
Once you have gone 6 miles you will hit the junction to the left for Berry Creek. Taking Berry Creek trail up one mile will take you past all of the gorgeous falls.
Once you get past the falls you will reach Sunset Trail. For a spot with a view to take a break, take Sunset Trail to the right for 0.2 miles until you reach Sunset Trail Camp. After your break, head back down the trail to Waddell Beach, enjoying the scenery and wildlife. Make sure you bring a change of clothes for the end in case you are muddy/wet!
Maps & GPX
With the GPX route downloaded on your phone, you can follow your location against the trail, even in airplane mode or when you have no service. To learn more about GPX files and how to use them, see the GPX 101 page.
You can download the GPX file using the following link --> GPX FILE DOWNLOAD
Preparation & Pro Tips
- Plan and pack your gear - See our Gear Checklist section for a comprehensive gear checklist and some tips and favorite items of ours.
- Bring a change of clothes - If doing this trail either during or just after rains to see the most wildlife, make sure to pack a change of clothes, socks and shoes to put on before getting back into your car.
- Don't touch the newts - Touching the newts is bad for people and newts. Newts secret toxin through their skin glands to repel predators. Although this toxin is not dangerous unless ingested, you can get skin irritation, especially if you end up touching your face or eyes. In addition, the salts on your hands damage the newt's sensitive skin. So please look and take photographs, don't touch!
- Extending your stay - If you want to spend more time in Big Basin, reserve a campsite. There are plenty of car camping spots as well as backcountry spots, but space can fill up. You can reserve car camping spots here, and backcountry spots here.
- Ano Nuevo - Another popular attraction just north of Waddell Beach is Ano Nuevo, where you can see the famous elephant seals via guided walks each year between December 15 - March 31. Make reservations here and enjoy a guided walk either before or after your Berry Creek Falls hike.
The trailhead begins across the highway from Waddell Beach. There is plenty of parking by the beach and across the street by the trailhead. Click on the directions icon to pull up custom directions in Google Maps.