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Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Fall, via Chalk Mountain and the high ridges - Big Basin Redwoods State Park - California, United States

by Vaudesir  
with a Garmin Colorado 400t
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Where to go for a long hike when a series of powerful storms has drenched the whole area for a week? There are not that many places that will be mud free. One of them is Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
While searching the web for photos of Berry Creek Falls, I found a description of a hike going from Waddell Beach to the fall and this seemed very appealing to me. Checking out a map, I noticed that there was even a "high" way, where one would hike on top of the ridges (my favorite), instead of walking along Waddell creek. A crazy route was "jumping" at me:
Start at Waddell and hike in Canada De La Salud - Rancho Del Oso, take the Clark connection up to the top of Westridge, hike along the ridge to Chalk Mountain, and keep following the ridge until Anderson Landing Road, Sunset Trail to West Berry Creek, hike along the creek and enjoy the falls, and then take Skyline to the Sea along Waddell Creek back to the beach.
The official park map doesn't show any trail distance so it was not easy to estimate what it would be like. A rough drawing on Google Earth gave between 15 and 20 miles. Later, I found online a hike description that was pretty much matching this route and it indicated 17 miles. Seemed doable as long as I could start early. There were ways to make the hike shorter if needed.

I started around 7:30 and enjoyed the flowers in Rancho Del Oso. I took the high trail instead of the paved road because a sign was requesting hikers to do so and leave the road to bikes and horses. I think it made the hike longer, gave it more elevation gain, but also made it more interesting. 
About 1.8 miles later, I was at the junction with Clark Connection and the sign scared me. It said "Chalk Mountain: 9 miles" (see photo). This made me doubt. If this was true, then, Chalk Mountain would be my destination, and I would turn back. I really didn't see how it was possible. The sign also said that the top of the ridge was 2 miles away. I felt that I completely miscalculated the length of the route I had in mind and was quite upset at myself. Of course, the sign could be wrong. Especially since it said that Berry Creek Fall was 5 miles away, which seemed probable, but which, according to my map, would not validate the 9 miles to go to Chalk Mountain.
I started the climb to Westridge anyway, and 1 mile later (not 2) I was on the ridge. It now seemed probable that the sign was very wrong, and that Chalk Mountain was only 4 miles away, which I now have verified.
The ridge hike to Chalk was very enjoyable. There were nice views of Big Basin and of the ocean. Often, despite being on a ridge, I would be surrounded by big redwoods. It was a "drip forest". It didn't rain but it was just like it was raining. The trail, as it got closer to Chalk, became a roller coaster, to which Kennedy Road in Sierra Azul is nothing in comparison. The steepness of some sections was similar to what Henry Coe S.P. can offer. I enjoyed this very much.
7 miles into the hike, and thus 5 miles after the sign that said "9 miles", I was at the top of Chalk Mountain. It has great views, a picnic table, and even a nice little outhouse built by volunteers! I didn't stay long as I didn't want to take the risk of running out of daylight at the end of the hike.

The next section was pretty uneventful. I didn't like it as much as the climb to Chalk, even though it was a ridge, which is usually my favorite terrain. Maybe it was not warm enough. I made it to the junction with Anderson Landing Road at the time I planned (12:30). It was time to say bye to the high ridges, for I would now go down to West Berry Creek and would continue hiking in redwood canyons for the rest of the day.

It was time for the falls! I believe that the first fall I saw was Golden Cascade (unless it was the upper part of Silver Falls). It was a very enjoyable change of setting. I kept going down and reached Silver Falls, which I have never been to before. How impressive. I didn't expect I would be hiking down by the raging water, almost getting wet, holding to cables. That was an awesome mini adventure. I didn't manage to have a good global view of this fall, but climbing down right by it was a great way to experience it. This is where I met the first people on that hike, after 12 miles without seeing a soul.
One mile later, i.e. at mile 13, I was at the Berry Creek Falls site and finally stopped to take a lunch break. I was pretty tired at that point after having climbed about 3500 feet since the morning. I still had 6 miles to go. I had already hiked Skyline to the Sea so I knew that going from the fall to Waddell Beach was quite easy. The last 6 miles were a simple stroll along  Waddell Creek.
I was tired and my legs started hurting so I focused on keeping a good pace rather than looking all over for plants or animals and a few hours later, I entered Canada De La Salud again. From there, the paved road took me straight to the beach parking lot.

Chalk Mountain, Big Basin, Rancho del Oso, Canada de la Salud, Berry Creek, Waddell Creek, Waddell Beach, Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, Golden Cascade, Skyline to the Sea
Photos: See all pictures and videos from Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Fall, via Chalk Mountain and the high ridges - Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Comments (7)
waddel beach to falls
by foggygurl on Aug 04, 2013
Great hike! There is wonderful contrast between the ridges and the falls.

I didn't see a marked trail from Sunset Camp to Berry Creek but a camper directed me towards a shortcut that met up with the larger trail in about 300 feet. The shortcut was just before you get to the lower campsites on the left hand side. But of course only stay on marked trails and don't take shortcuts...
by seancurrens on Jul 26, 2013
Hey there! Thanks for writing this recap up. I attempted this hike this last weekend and to my surprise had immense difficulty locating the Berry Creek Falls Trailhead at Sunset Camp...which was hugely frustrating because I had actually camped at Sunset Camp a couple years back. I was forced to turn around, making my hike nearly 28 miles with 6,000 ft of climbing. Brutal! Can you elaborate on how to find the Berry Creek Falls Trailhead once you arrive in Sunset Camp? I MUST try this hike again and get it right. Thank you so much :)
by alaynalim on Jul 23, 2013
What an awesome experience! I've hiked all over Big Basin, but not here, and I can't wait to go!
by patriciamichele on Apr 02, 2013
Belle randonnée et de belles photos en prime.

by misulica on Feb 07, 2010
Thanks... I actually took more than 300 photos on that day but had to do a selection for this report. (no wonder my hard drive is filling up :)
by Vaudesir on Jan 30, 2010
Congrats, that's one impressive day hike! And you still had time to take 60 photos too. Very cool.
by joost on Jan 30, 2010
Trip Info
January 23, 2010
Trip Location: Swanton, California, United States
Length: 19.1 miles
Duration: 9 hours
Activity: Hiking
Trip viewed 18,571 times
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