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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The ascent to Big Ben involves two steep sections, which are great for a cardiovascular workout. The descent is mostly along Fall Creek Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Gorgeous hike through redwoods with over two miles next to Redwood Creek.
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.
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.
Great redwood hike with the entire section of Purisima Creek Trail that goes along Purisima Creek.
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.
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.
A beautiful loop around a Buddhist retreat center. About a third of the route is next to a creek, amid cool redwoods.
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.
Long loop covering all major trails in Foothills Park, going through various micro climates. Los Trancos Trail is the prettiest section of this route.
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.
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.
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.
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.