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Bay Area Hikes along Creeks
Bay Area Hikes along Creeks
1 Jan 2012
Creeks flow with water soon after rains, especially from February to April. There are several trails in the bay area that meander next to creeks for several miles. The most pleasant creek trails are in redwood forests. Only hikes with substantial sections next to creeks are listed below.
Cataract Falls

The hike to Cataract Falls in Marin County is all along a trail that meanders next to a creek which overflows with water after rains. No other waterfall hike goes next to a creek for so many miles. Cataract Falls Trail is relatively steep. However, the sound of flowing water, wet vegetation and shaded trails makes for an awesome overall experience. By June, water levels recede substantially. The hike is still pleasant since trails are shaded, providing respite from the sun.

3.1 miles
1000 ft
Cataract Falls - Route I
The shortest route to Cataract Falls is all along a shaded trail that meanders next to a creek. The route gains 1000 ft in about 1.5 miles, making it a steep but rewarding hike.
5.8 miles
1400 ft
Cataract Falls - Route II
This route goes all the way from Rock Springs trailhead (2000 ft) to Ridgecrest Blvd (650 ft) and back. If you would like to first ascend, start from Ridgecrest Blvd.
Uvas Canyon

Uvas Canyon is a hidden gem in the bay area. It is a gorgeous park in Morgan Hill with cascades of water in two creeks amid thick forest. The best time to visit is February and March, soon after rains. The waterfalls are small sized but quite a spectacle. Trails are shaded throughout and meander next to creeks for several miles.

5.6 miles
1600 ft
All Waterfalls in Uvas Canyon
This route visits all the waterfalls in Uvas Canyon.
2.8 miles
900 ft
Swanson Creek - Uvas Creek
A shorter route that does not visit all the waterfalls but always stays adjacent to creeks. This route also goes through the much less visited Uvas Creek.
Henry Cowell - Fall Creek

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is in two sections. The northern section is called Fall Creek Unit. It is less developed and gives a feeling of wilderness. The southern section is much more developed, with picnic areas and many more visitors. Fall Creek Trail goes for 2.5 miles all along Fall Creek. The trail keeps to the edge of the creek at all times. From winter through spring, there is plenty of water in the creek, making this one of the best hikes in the bay area.

7.0 miles
1500 ft
Truck Trail - Fall Creek Trail - Route I
A gorgeous redwood hike next to Fall Creek for several miles. About half the hike is along Truck Trail, which goes through a forest.
8.2 miles
1800 ft
Big Ben Tree and Fall Creek
The ascent to Big Ben involves two steep sections, which are great for a cardiovascular workout. The descent is mostly along Fall Creek Trail.
Mount Tamalpais

Steep Ravine Trail in Mount Tamalpais is a gorgeous trail that is all along Webb Creek for about 1.5 miles. Routes going through Steep Ravine Trail are pretty awesome when the creek is full of water after rains.

6.5 miles
1500 ft
Steep Ravine - Matt Davis
One of the finest bay area hikes that climbs up an evergreen forest via Steep Ravine Trail. This hike becomes overly awesome in misty, overcast conditions because of the dew that forms on leaves of all the plants.
8.5 miles
2100 ft
Matt Davis - Coastal - Willow Camp - Steep Ravine
A gorgeous hike along Steep Ravine Trail and through redwoods, forests and open spaces. Awesome ocean views as well.
Forest of Nisene Marks

Forest of Nisene Marks is a beautiful redwood forest with trails going along trails: Bridge Creek Trail and Aptos Creek Trail. Since 2007, Aptos Creek Trail has been closed because a landslide destroyed a section of the trail. However, several web articles suggest that some volunteers have installed ropes along this trail, so those looking for adventure may try visiting Aptos Creek Trail.

8.6 miles
800 ft
Maple Falls - Route I
Maple Falls is a beautiful waterfall inside Forest of Nisene Marks, a redwood forest in Santa Cruz. The last half mile to Maple Falls, beyond Bridge Creek Historic Site, is all along a creek. The trail switches from one side of the creek to the other almost a dozen times. After heavy rains, we have to wade in about 6 to 12 inches of water at some of these crossings. A few spots require scrambling, adding to overall fun!
9.5 miles
1500 ft
Hoffman Historic Site - Route II
A shaded route amid redwoods that goes via Bridge Creek Trail, then climbs up the western ridge.
Redwood Regional Park

Redwood Regional Park is in a surprising location: Oakland. Stream Trail is a three mile long trail that goes all along Redwood Creek. Parallel to Stream Trail are three other trails: East Ridge Trail, Fern Trail and West Ridge Trail. The two ridge trails are fire roads high up along ridges, allowing cyclists. Many sections of these trails are in the open, so avoid them in summers. In constrast, Fern Trail goes through a shaded forest full of redwoods. There are several other trails connecting these four trails with each other. So one may form many different loops. For a loop that includes walking along a creek and going through cool redwood forests, combine Stream Trail and Fern Trail with other trails that connects these two trails.

7.0 miles
1100 ft
Stream Trail - French Trail
Gorgeous hike through redwoods with over two miles next to Redwood Creek.
Joaquin Miller

Joaquin Miller Park is a surprisingly beautiful park right in the middle of Oakland. Palos Colorados Trail is a gorgeous trail that meanders next to Palo Seco Creek. There are other trails next to creeks in Joaquin Miller. Interesting loops may be formed by combining these trails together. Palos Colorados Trail remains cool and shaded even in summers.

5.4 miles
1100 ft
Long Loop in Joaquin Miller Park
A hike that meanders next to Palos Colorados Trail for its entire length, among other trails in Joaquin Miller.
9.3 miles
1500 ft
Joaquin Miller and Dimond Canyon Loop
A long hike that covers all major trails in Joaquin Miller Park and Dimond Canyon Park. The best section is along the Palos Colorados Trail which meanders next to a cool redwood canyon.
Butano

In Butano State Park, Butano Creek Trail and Six Bridges Trail go all along Little Butano Creek for a total of about two miles. Best visited in winters and early spring, after heavy rains.

8.2 miles
1900 ft
Little Butano Creek - Ano Nuevo - Candleabra - Route II
Gorgeous hike through redwoods and creeks that goes through Butano Creek Trail.
Purisima Creek Redwoods

Purisima Creek Trail goes along Purisima Creek for about 2.3 miles. In the east, it leaves the creek but continues for 1.6 miles to reach the eastern trailhead. Purisima Creek Trail divides the park into two sections: north and south. A hike along this trail may be combined with trails in the north or with trails in the south for awesome loops.

9.9 miles
1800 ft
Purisima Creek - North Entrance - Route II
Great redwood hike with the entire section of Purisima Creek Trail that goes along Purisima Creek.
Garrapata

Soberanes Canyon Trail in Garrapata State Park goes through a redwood forest, meandering next to Soberanes Creek for about 1.5 miles. Loops involving Soberanes Canyon Trail are pretty awesome, especially when the creek is full of water.

6.2 miles
2200 ft
Doud Peak
Awesome hike through a redwood canyon, chaparral filled ridges and views of jagged Big Sur coastline. The initial section of the hike goes through Soberanes Canyon Trail.
4.8 miles
1700 ft
Soberanes Canyon - Rocky Ridge
Awesome hike through a redwood canyon, chaparral filled ridges and views of jagged Big Sur coastline. The initial section of the hike goes through Soberanes Canyon Trail.
Land of Medicine Buddha

Land of Medicine Buddha is a quiet serene Buddhist monastery in Santa Cruz. A six-mile loop trail goes along a creek for the first two miles. Overall, the hike is shaded throughout. The section that goes next to the creek is the most gorgeous.

6.2 miles
900 ft
Loop Around Land of Medicine Buddha
A beautiful loop around a Buddhist retreat center. About a third of the route is next to a creek, amid cool redwoods.
Foothills Park

Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park is really gorgeous after rains. It goes over 21 wooden bridges at various locations. These are marked as LT1, LT2, LT3 and so on in the trail map. For about a mile, between LT11 and LT13, the trail meanders next to Los Trancos Creek. This is the most beautiful section of the trail.

7.6 miles
1400 ft
Los Trancos Trail - Regular Loop
An awesome hike that goes all along Los Trancos Trail.
11.4 miles
2000 ft
Los Trancos Trail - Long Loop
Long loop covering all major trails in Foothills Park, going through various micro climates. Los Trancos Trail is the prettiest section of this route.
Big Basin

Several trails in Big Basin are along creeks. Among the prominent ones are Skyline to the Sea Trail that goes along different creeks for several miles, Berry Creek Falls Trail, Timms Creek Trail and Shadowbrook Trail.

15.6 miles
2300 ft
Berry Creek Falls - McAbee Overlook from Waddell Beach
A long route starting at Waddell Beach in Santa Cruz. The route to Berry Creek Falls is all along Skyline to the Sea Trail, which meanders through redwoods, next to Waddell Creek. The return trip goes through trails quite different in character. Howard King Trail is a steep climb through a forest. McAbee Overlook provides pretty good views of Santa Cruz mountains and even the Pacific. Finally, McRary Ridge Trail goes along a ridge.
Hidden Villa

Creek Trail and Ewing Hill Trail go along Adobe Creek for a combined distance of almost one mile. These trails are shaded by tall trees and quite scenic. The intersection of Creek Trail with Toyon Trail and Long Bunny Loop is near the intersection of three different creeks called Adobe Creek, Middle Fork and West Fork. The ambience near this intersection is particularly peaceful. There are picnic tables at this point.

3.9 miles
1200 ft
Medium Loop in Hidden Villa - Route I
A short, sweet hike. Most of the route is shaded. Has two climbing sections. Each gains about 500 ft. Goes through a gorgeous picnic spot a the confluence of Adobe Creek and East Fork Creek. Great views of Silicon Valley from Elephant Mountain.
8.3 miles
2000 ft
Long Loop in Hidden Villa from Rhus Ridge
Great hike through varied terrain including open spaces, forests and creeks.
Portola Redwoods

In Portola Redwoods, many trails cross creeks or meander for short sections next to creeks. The hike to Peters Creek Loop is next to a creek for quite a long section.

11.5 miles
1800 ft
Peters Creek Loop
A great redwood hike leading to a loop around a creek. Fully shaded throughout. No particularly steep sections.
Phleger Estate

Phleger Estate is a hidden gem in the bay area with beautiful redwood trails. Raymundo Trail and Miramontes Trail are along West Union Creek for a combined distance of over a mile.

6.7 miles
1400 ft
Phleger Estate from Skyline Blvd - Route I
A fully shaded loop through redwoods. Almost a mile log section of Raymundo Trail is next to a creek.
6.2 miles
800 ft
Phleger Estate from Zwierlein Picnic Area - Route I
A fully shaded loop through redwoods. Richard Road Trail, Miramontes Trail and Raymundo Trail are next to West Union Creek for a combined length of over a mile.
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