After the spattering of rainfall, the Bay Area’s gorgeous rivers have gotten a pleasant little lift.
Obviously, the more it rains, the more water you’ll see in waterfalls, and most of these waterfalls are doing all right.
Even if they’re a touch low on supplies, they’re all in lovely locations and well worth the journey. Rainfall, rather than snowmelt, is the primary source of water for area waterfalls.
So, if you want to witness a waterfall with a powerful water flow, go during the rainy season, which is in full swing during the winter and early spring.
True, certain waterfalls, such as Berry Creek Falls, run all year; however, they are more likely to be a trickle in the summer than in the winter.
Another option is to keep an eye on the weather and wait for a couple of good storm systems to pass through.
You have a decent chance of viewing plumped-up falls if you hike following a series of severe storms. For high water, mud, and puddles on hikes, don’t forget your waterproof footwear.
Here are the Best 20 Waterfall Hikes Bay Area
Alamere Falls Hikes
- Distance: 13.8 miles (8.3 miles with “shortcut”)
- Elevation Gain: 1,955 ft (990 ft with “shortcut”)
- Difficulty: Moderate.
- Estimated Hike Time: 7 hours.
- Trailhead: Palomarin Trailhead.
- Trailhead Facilities: Pit toilets and trash and recycling bins.
- Pets: No dogs allowed.
Alamere Falls is the Bay Area’s rock star waterfall.
It’s not only one of the most visually stunning falls, cascading directly onto the beach, but it’s also one of the most consistent high-flowing falls in the area.
The hike to Alamere Falls is the longest on the list, though it is very flat for the most part.
The first mile follows a 300-foot cliff overlooking the lake, with the rest of the trail passing between covered woodland and exposed chaparral.
You’ll have to scramble 60 feet down a gravelly cliff to get to the beach. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but you’ll need to use your hands.
Cascade Falls Hike
- Difficulty – Easy.
- Time 0.5 hours.
- Round-Trip 0.75km. (Roundtrip Length: 6.8 Miles)
- Elevation Gain – 40 meters. (430 Feet)
- Season April – November.
- From Vancouver – 1 hour, 30 minutes.
- Dog Friendly – Yes.
This is a short hike to a beautiful waterfall that you may undertake on the spur of the moment if you’re in the area.
Near the trailhead, there’s a “community nature journal” in the driveway of 690 Cascade Drive.
It features some fantastic kid drawings as well as an accurate depiction of the actual status of the falls.
San Anselmo Creek crosses the main trail several times, but it is typically dry except during periodic storms.
There is an alternate pathway that follows the north side of the creek with one bridge crossing immediately before the falls in case of high water.
When you get to the end of the walk, there’s a great view platform and a couple of enormous stones just in front of the falls.
Cataract Waterfall Hikes
All of the falls on our list are amid beautiful scenery, but this one is especially worth seeing for the trip to the trailhead.
The major falls are located just east of Ridgecrest Boulevard, but Alpine Lake is the most popular starting location.
On your way to Laurel Dell, a picnic place just past Cataract Falls, you’ll encounter several falls along Cataract Creek.
It’s a challenging climb, but it’s well worth it when you witness the next waterfall along the road.
Trees cover almost the whole trail, and moss blankets every surface that isn’t being walked on. It’s the kind of place where fairies and gnomes would be expected.
Dawn Falls Hikes
The walk takes you right up to the falls’ ledge, where you can see a 30-foot plummet to the streambed below.
On the route to Dawn Falls, you’ll pass by a lesser waterfall that, while not nearly as impressive, is well worth seeing.
And Baltimore Canyon as a whole is just stunning. I can’t picture anyone being disappointed, regardless of how much water is in the creek.
Elliot Creek Waterfall Hikes
Just south of Ao Nuevo State Park, Elliot Creek empties onto the seashore. You’d never believe there was a waterfall right off the highway if you drove past it a hundred times on your way to Santa Cruz.
There are a few more within a few miles, but this one lasts longer after a big rain than the others. This waterfall also has the uncanny ability to reveal fossils.
Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, the Purisima Formation, which is three to five million years old, runs along much of the shoreline.
At low tide, slabs of smoothed rock loaded with shells can be found strewn across the beach.
Crystal Creek Falls
Though you might not realize it, Lower Crystal Creek Falls is the only “man-made” waterfall in the Whiskey town National Recreation Area.
The diversion of a substantial amount of the Trinity River into Whiskey town Lake, and then down into the Sacramento River, was an important component of the Central Valley Project when it was designed in the 1920s.
The water was transported underground from Trinity Dam to Carr Powerhouse through a 17-mile tunnel, and the tailings were discharged at Crystal Creek Falls.
Pit River Falls
One of Nor Cal’s most underappreciated waterfalls is located upstream from Lake Britton on the Pit River in a deep canyon.
Pit River Falls is a 30-foot-tall volcanic ledge that flows into the riverbed below.
The reason this waterfall isn’t more well-known in our area is that it’s quite difficult to reach.
Because traversing the canyon is nearly impossible, most visitors arrive at the falls by raft or kayak.
With many channels to launch down the waterfall, this has become a refuge for kayakers from all around Northern California.
Bassi Falls is a 4-mile round-trip trek along Highway 50 near Pollock Pines, California.
This is a short, simple hike to a spectacular waterfall. When you get to the bottom of Bassi Falls, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking vista of the full 120-foot fall.
There’s also a hard trek to the top of the falls to see Bassi Creek hurtle over the edge (cautiously).
Root Creek Falls
Root Creek Falls, located right below Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park, is a massive, multi-tiered waterfall.
Though the climb to Castle Dome is widely regarded as the best in the park, Root Creek and Root Creek Falls are not far behind.
Hikers can access Root Creek via a variety of ways. This is a tiny collection of trails that lead to the Root Creek Falls vista point, and they all eventually lead to the creek or the vista point.
Looking up from the viewpoint, you can see the sheer falls set against the wild and harsh crags, with white clouds looming even more behind.
Kings Creek Falls
The thundering cascades of King’s Creek Falls are among of Lassen Park’s most impressive falls, reaching a height of roughly 40 feet.
They are popular with hikers and photographers alike. The waterfall is a remarkable transition – the leisurely, meandering tiny stream that we drove past and hiked alongside has transformed into a crashing and gushing waterfall.
It’s a spectacular perspective, and standing at the base puts you right in the middle of the metamorphosis.
Table Mountain, in Oroville, is haunted by a flowing phantom. During the summer, it vanishes and spends the rest of the year concealed in distant Coal Canyon.
Its evil beauty is extolled by the fortunate few who come across it. Phantom Falls, a 134-foot narrow cascade at the bottom of Coal Canyon, seems to be drawn to the wet, dismal months of winter (only fitting, right?).
Phantom Falls is one of the loveliest sights in the North State when the clouds clear for a few days and the wildflower displays are at their peak in February-April.
Hedge Creek Falls
Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the opening to a 12-foot-high cave, similar to the hiding entrances featured in Batman movies and the Legend of Zorro.
The small waterfall barely hides the not-so-secret cave, so you won’t run into any masked heroes on your way to the attraction.
Nonetheless, the drive to Dunsmuir, CA is well worth the trek to Hedge Creek Falls.
The Hedge Creek Falls Trail offers spectacular vistas of the Sacramento River and Mt. Shasta in addition to the cascade.
In recent years, it has become a favorite camper’s weekend swimming spot. The Potem Falls swimming hole is an appealing alternative for families because it is only a quarter-mile stroll.
Take a trip to the falls during the middle of the week if you want some peace and quiet. Potem Falls is also a great place for a romantic date.
As you approach the narrow but beautiful Potem waterfall, you’ll notice a huge pool ideal for swimming and relaxing.
Feather Falls in Oroville was once thought to be the sixth tallest waterfall in the United States before it was accurately measured.
The falls are not 640 feet tall as frequently believed, but rather 410 feet tall (pretty impressive either way).
Feather Falls Trail allows hikers to witness the waterfall in its entire splendor all year. Many hikers consider Feather Falls to be one of Northern California’s most magnificent views.
Whiskey town Falls
The stairway that runs up the left side of the waterfall provides tourists with a close-up view of the rushing water as it flows down the granite face of the fall.
Because the stairwell can become wet and slick, proceed with caution and hang on to the handrail as you mount the fall.
The trip also provides a fascinating historical perspective on the economic activities that shaped Shasta County because the trail winds across old logging routes.
Another appealing feature of the climb is that running water runs parallel to the pathway the entire way, making the trip much more enjoyable on a hot summer day.
Mount Diablo Waterfall Loop
In the parched Mount Diablo State Park, a waterfall isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, but surprise!
This 6.0-mile loop hike on Mount Diablo’s northern flank explores a series of small but lovely waterfalls along the Falls Trail.
The hike begins at the end of Regency Drive in a Clayton community, ascends through oak savannah to the vistas of Donner Canyon, and then turns clockwise past wildflowers, rock formations, and waterfalls for a scenic punch before returning down Donner Canyon Road.
Berry Creek Falls
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging than these shorter walks, look no further than Big Basin’s Berry Creek Falls Loop.
The 11-mile loop takes you past three beautiful waterfalls: Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, and Golden Cascade, all of which fall between 30 and 70 feet.
Set up a full day to take on this challenging journey through California’s oldest state park, which will take you up a thousand feet in height.
If you happen to be around Livermore, this waterfall walk is worth a try, especially if you are a seasoned hiker.
A trip to Murietta Waterfall, unlike the other falls routes, is quite long, taking four to five hours to complete.
In addition, this waterfall trek is often regarded as one of the most difficult, if not the most demanding, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Along the route, you’ll come across a bunch of large rocks and muddy walkways.
However, once you reach the top, the breathtaking views of the falls will stay with you for a long time.
Little Yosemite Falls
You might not have enough time to visit Yosemite National Park. But don’t worry, if you can’t reach the huge, you can always attain the small.
Little Yosemite Falls, located in Sunol, offers views of the cascade and oak trees that rival those found in the national park.
The hike is short and easy but keeps in mind that the water at Alameda Creek is so clear and fresh that you might be tempted to swim.
McCloud Falls, just outside of Mount Shasta, California, is actually made up of three separate waterfalls, each with its own personality.
The Upper, Middle and Lower tiers of McCloud Falls provide visitors one of the great outdoor experiences in Northern California.
It’s a lovely hike to see all three waterfalls, and there are some wonderful swimming and recreation possibilities during the summer months.