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Month: March 2018

Alamere Falls in Point Reyes

Alamere Falls in Point Reyes

Following the rainy season and last month’s Big Basin’s Berry Creek Falls, we took a visit to the north side of the bay to the Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore. This easy-moderate hike, follows the California coast line past two pristine lakes and finishes with the gentle Alamere creek cascading down into the ocean.

Total distance: 8.22 mi
Total climbing: 2024 ft

Essential Info on Alamere Falls

Distance: 8 miles in and out
Time: 4 hours
Elevation gain: 2100 feet
Difficulty: Easy hike but some rock climbing necessary to get to the beach to view the lower falls.

Dogs and bikes not allowed.

Parking can get crowded at the Palomarin Trailhead. Arrive early to beat the crowd!

Getting There – Palomarin Trailhead

Alamere Falls Palomarin Trailhead
Alamere Falls Palomarin Trailhead

Note: As of this writing, parts of Highway 1 are closed and a detour route along the Panoramic Highway is the primary way of getting to areas along Highway 1 north of Stinson beach.

Alamere falls is reached via the Palomarin Trailhead located in the Bolinas region of Point Reyes National Seashore.

To get there from the East Bay, take 680N to 24E. Then take 580W and cross the Richmond Bridge.

Exit Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Stay in the left hand lanes to merge onto 101S.

From 101S, exit 1N.  Take 1N and then veer right to take the Panoramic Highway (towards Muir Woods). The Panoramic highway will twist and turn for about 9 miles where it hits Highway 1 just shy of Stinson Beach.

Proceed along highway 1N for about 5 miles and turn left at Fairfax Rd towards Bolinas. You’ll then make another left at Olema Bolinas Rd.

Continue on Olema Bolinas Rd for about a mile (you need to make a left to stay on the same road), and then turn right at Mesa Rd. Mesa Rd will bring you to the Palomarin Trailhead. Note that the last couple miles consist of a dirt road that is mired in pot holes. You’ll be better of leaving the Ferrari home for this trip.

The Alamere Falls Trail

Note: The trail described here is the popular route that is not officially recommended by the National Park Service due to the need to scramble down the seaside cliff. The official route via Wildcat Camp adds a few more miles (depending on route to the camp), requires timing with the tide during the winter/spring seasons, and misses out on the upper falls (unless you scramble up the cliff in which case you might as well take the unofficial route).

Alamere Falls Trail
Alamere Falls Trail


Checkpoint: Start

The trail begins at the Palomarin Trailhead parking lot which has bathrooms but no potable water. Take the Coast Trail on the north end of the parking lot.

A grove of Eucalyptus trees will immediately greet you at the beginning of your journey.

Eucalyptus Grove
Eucalyptus Grove

Checkpoint: Coastal Views

After emerging from the trees, the field of view will open up across the Pacific Ocean. The trail will skirt the tops of cliffs which offer views of the coast. On a clear day, the Farallons will be visible in the distance.

Pt Reyes Coastline
Point Reyes Coastline


Farallon Islands
Farallon Islands in the distance

Through the chaparral, deer forage and are largely unfazed by passing hikers.

Veering from the coast, the trail will turn inland.

Evident along the beaches and throughout the National Seashore, Point Reyes is a geologic treasure trove. As the famous San Andreas fault helps tear the peninsula from the mainland, upward thrusts of land expose sedimentary layers built up over eons.

Sedimentary Rock
Geologic activity is evident throughout Point Reyes

Checkpoint: Bass Lake

Along the west side of the trail, Bass Lake will come into view. A popular spot for swimming, it once used to have a mounted rope swing to aid in plunge takers. Alas, the tree has fallen and the rope swing is no more.

Bass Lake
Bass Lake

Checkpoint: Pelican Lake

Pelican Lake
Pelican Lake

Checkpoint: Alamere Falls Fork

Alamere Falls Fork
Alamere Falls Fork

Kindly hikers sometimes mark the turn off with rocks and branches. Note that this is the unofficial route to Alamere Falls which involves scrambling over a rocky cliff. Ignoring the turnoff and proceeding down the official trail will bring you to Wildcat camp from which you can also hike down the beach to the falls; however, you’ll miss the upper falls which are above the cliff face.

After a short section navigating through shrubs and brush, the ocean will come into a view.

Drakes Bay
After emerging from the brush, a view of Drakes Bay

Checkpoint: Falls

After descending through a deeply eroded channel, you’ll hear the gushing waters of Alamere creek and the upper falls.

Upper Alamere Falls
Upper Alamere Falls

This is a popular spot to take a lunch break and gaze at the mesmerizing waters as they disappear over the cliff edge.

Wildcat Beach and the Lower Falls

Now comes the tough part. The cliff edge is composed of a loose rocky shale which makes it extremely unstable!

Cliffs at Wildcat Beach
Cliffs at Wildcat Beach

Luckily, a few generations of daring hikers have shorn a narrow path down the cliff. At times, a rope is available to help stabilize your ascent/descent.

Rope to descend the cliff
Rope to descend the cliff

Celebrate your success with the amazing views of Alamere Falls!

Lower Alamere Falls
Lower Alamere Falls


Return along the same route. On the way back, stop and smell the flowers!

Big Basin Waterfalls – Berry Creek Trail

Big Basin Waterfalls – Berry Creek Trail

Winter rainfall brings water and life to waterfalls. For the President’s day weekend, we ventured down to the South Bay to hike through redwoods and view the Big Basin waterfalls along the Berry Creek trail. Featuring Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, and the Golden Cascade this is definitely one of the better hikes in California’s oldest state park.

Note that the Big Basin brochure labels this hike as strenuous. While it’s certainly long and has a couple of narrow spots, it’s not too bad and would rank as easier than Mission Peak.

Total distance: 11.71 mi
Total climbing: 4580 ft

Note: The iPhone GPS seems to have had some issues recording. Ignore those 0ft elevation dips on the gps track 😒 

Essential Info on Big Basin Waterfalls

Length: 10mi
Elevation Gain: ~2400ft
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length, some incline)
Time: 6hrs
Fees: $10 (Day Use), $35 (Camping)
Day Use Hours: 6am-sunset

Getting There

Big Basin Location

Despite being in the vicinity of San Jose, it still takes about 1hr from Saratoga Ave due to the narrow windy roads. From the East Bay, plan for about 2 hrs.

The simplest way to get there from the East Bay is to take 680S till it passes 101 and becomes 280N. Exit Saratoga Ave and proceed southwest (turn left if coming from 280N) towards Saratoga. From here, over a span of 15mi you’ll pass a variety of landmarks including the Westgate shopping center, West Valley College, downtown Saratoga, the Mountain Winery and the Hakone Gardens.

You’ll hit a four way stop at Saratoga Gap and another at the Highway 9/236 split. Go straight through both of these. The road will eventually narrow on Highway 236 (Big Basin Way) as you approach the state park. You’ll eventually pass through the visitor center on the left and the parking lot on the right.

The Trail

Big Basin Waterfalls Hike

On some friendly advise from the visitor’s center, we did this popular hike clockwise. We went first to Skyline trail, to the Berry Creek Falls trail, and then returned on the Sunset trail

Checkpoint: Visitor’s Center

Log stool inside tree hollow
Need a rest? Resourceful use of the forest.

The visitor’s center is where you’ll park, pay the day use fee, and get a trail map. There’s also no bathrooms along the trail so it’s generally a good pitstop after a long drive.

From here, find the Skyline trailhead just behind the main parking.

Checkpoint: Detours

During our hike, we encountered a detour in the Skyline trail, likely due to trail damage from the previous season. The detour is short, proceeding up Middle Ridge Road, making a left onto the Sunset trail, and then taking the Skyline connector to get back onto the Skyline trail. Note that the connector trail is the starting point of the loop; you’ll come back to this point from the other direction along the Sunset trail.

From here, enjoy the serene walk along Kelly Creek.

Checkpoint: Logjam (Timm’s Creek Trail)

Log jam at Timm's Creek Trail turn off
Log jam at Timm’s Creek Trail turn off

Timm’s Creek Trail was closed as we passed by, likely due to more prior season storm damage. Remnants of last year’s massive rains can be seen along the creek in the huge pile up of downed trees.

Proceed along Skyline trail to the junction with Berry Creek Falls Trail.

Checkpoint: Berry Creek Falls

Berry Creek Falls
Berry Creek Falls

Just after the Skyline trail junction, you’ll come upon the craggy cliff of Berry Creek Falls. There’s a large seating area situated with a great viewing angle that’s a great place for lunch or a lingering snack.

The trail continues up to the top of the falls and along West Berry Creek to Silver Falls.

Checkpoint: Silver Falls

Silver Falls, though smaller than the Berry Creek Falls, is no less majestic.

Silver Falls
Silver Falls

Moving up the trail, you’ll walk by a narrow section past the top of Silver Falls before arriving at the lower Golden Cascade.

Top of Silver Falls
Top of Silver Falls

Golden Cascades

The Golden cascades are a series of steep descents where waters of West Berry Creek rush over golden colored shale rock. Because we’re doing the hike clockwise, we encounter the cascades in the reverse order.

The third cascade is a mini waterfall which drops about 10 feet into a pool of water.

Golden Cascades - Third
Golden Cascades – Third

The second cascade, forms a stair-step type pattern for water to trickle down.

Second of the Golden Cascades
Second of the Golden Cascades

And the first cascade is a relatively smooth one, allowing a glistening sheet of water to pass.

First of the Golden Cascades
First of the Golden Cascades

Return Hike

The return trip will take you on a quick ascent above the redwood tree lines with surrounding knobcone pines, and slick sandstone ground.

Sandstone etched with graffiti
Sandstone etched with graffiti
Knobcone Pines
Knobcone Pines

While on the return trip, take your time to enjoy the various flora and fauna of Big Basin!