Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bay Area Waterfalls

I stumbled upon this article about some waterfalls near the Bay Area that we've always been meaning to do but never really got around to doing. Who knows? Maybe 2009 is the year we find an excuse to drive up to No. Cal. and make good on our intentions to see the falls up there. In the mean time, have a look at the article courtesy of Silicon Valley's The Wave Magazine:

Chasing Waterfalls
A hike to a stunning waterfall is closer than you think.
By Damon Orion

For ages, artists have been paying tribute to majestic waterfalls. Painters such as Henri Rousseau and Georgia O’Keeffe have captured their likeness in oil; wordsmiths such as Carl Sandburg and Mary Oliver have invoked their image in poetry; and musicians as diverse as Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, the Stone Roses, Electric Light Orchestra and TLC have all sung their praises. With all the poetic whimsy surrounding them, it’s easy to forget that waterfalls are actual, tangible phenomena of nature – not to mention the fact that we have a wealth of them right here in our Bay Area backyard.

Here are some of the best local spots where you can hike to see waterfalls in all of their gushing winter glory. We may not choose to honor them with songs or paintings, but with so many of these wonders within hiking distance, there’s no excuse not to at least pay one a visit.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
21600 Big Basin Way, Ste. 406, Boulder Creek (831) 338-8860
Twenty-three miles northwest of Santa Cruz, we find California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods, home of an 11-mile loop of trails that leads to a series of raging cascades. Featuring approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain during its second half, this hike offers an eyeful of flora and wildlife on the way to the waterfalls, which are considered by many to be the finest in the Bay Area. While they generally run throughout the year, the cascades are especially powerful during the rainy season. There’s the multitiered Golden Cascade Falls (which, as its name suggests, gives off a striking golden sheen due to its iron-stained rocks); the majestic Cascade Falls, which boasts a mighty 80-foot drop; Silver Falls, which has rock stairs that allow you to walk just below the waterfall, bathing in the mist as you use a handrail for balance; and the 70-foot Berry Creek Falls, considered by many people to be the best waterfall on the California coast.

Castle Rock State Park
15000 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos (408) 867-2952
One of the many natural treasures of the Santa Cruz Mountains is Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos, which, along with offering several opportunities for rock climbing and hiking, boasts the memorable Castle Rock Falls. A viewing platform makes it easy to get a peek at the waters of King’s Creek, spilling approximately 75 feet over a massive vertical sandstone slab. When the waterfall is in full force during late winter and spring, you’ll begin to hear its waters from a distance as you approach from the nearby hiking trail.

Edgewood County Park
Edgewood and Old Stage Rds., Redwood City (650) 368-6283
At five feet in height, Sylvan Trail Falls is hardly the largest waterfall on the list. But the fern-covered rocks that surround it make for pleasant viewing, while visitors will enjoy a laid-back, family-friendly trek through Edgewood County Park in Redwood City, best known for the colorful wildflowers that cover its grasslands and hillsides in the springtime.

Forest of Nisene Marks
Aptos Creek Rd. and Soquel Dr., Aptos (831) 763-7062
Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy this Santa Cruz County forest, famous for being at the epicenter of the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. A nine- to 10-mile round-trip hike via Aptos Creek Fire Road and the Aptos Creek Trail will reward visitors with an up-close view of Five Finger Falls, spilling 20 feet into Aptos Creek. Also known as Aptos Creek Falls and Monte Vista Falls, Five Finger Falls gets its name from the proliferation of five-finger ferns growing nearby. Also at Nisene Marks is Maple Falls, accessible via a challenging hike dotted with natural obstacles.

Memorial County Park
9500 Pescadero Creek Rd., Loma Mar (650) 879-0238
La Honda’s redwood-rich Memorial Park is the site of Pomponio Falls, which finds Peterson Creek dropping 24 feet onto Pescadero Creek. While you’re there, be sure to visit the eight-foot Upper Pomponio Falls. Also in La Honda is Portola Redwoods State Park, home of Tiptoe Falls, a cascade that is usually between five and eight feet in height.

Uvas Canyon County Park
8515 Croy Rd., Morgan Hill (408) 779-9232
Rumored to be an excellent dating spot, Uvas Canyon County Park, located at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Morgan Hill, sports no less than seven small waterfalls that are best viewed in late winter. Five of these falls are listed on park maps: Granjula Falls, Basin Falls, Triple Falls, Upper Falls, and the triple-tiered Black Rock Falls (which, at approximately 55 feet, is the largest of the bunch). The mile-long Waterfall Loop that runs along Swanson Creek is an easy hike, while more challenging climbs along the canyon are also available for more adventurous hikers. The canyon can make for cold journeying, so bring extra layers (or someone to cuddle).

*This Article appeared in Volume 8, Issue 26 of The Wave Magazine.

Boy, I can't wait to get up there!

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