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10 BREATHTAKING WATERFALL HIKES TO TAKE NEAR SAN FRANCISCO

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LARISSA RUNKLE

JUL 14, 2020

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Don’t go chasing waterfalls…unless you know where to find them. After a rainy winter, the Bay’s waterfalls are sure to be flowing.

So before you let those weeks of gray days get you down, pack a bag and head out to some of the best falls only a short drive from San Francisco. Hiking to these spots is guaranteed to make your day.

A seven-mile loop-hike with intense elevation gain, this trail is perfect for a one-day adventure that will have you working harder than any leg day at the gym. Start at Alpine Lake on Cataract Trail for a steep climb — it’ll quickly reward you with beautiful falls at Cataract Creek. Keep going on High Marsh Trail, connecting to Kent Trail and Helen Market Trail, for a full day of redwood groves, sweeping ocean views, and just plain old California bliss.

The perfect end to a drive south down the famous CA-1, this hike comes in at just under two miles from trailhead to falls. Just past the Ano Nuevo State Park, hikers can continue south to the coastal Elliot Creek. With just 20 minutes each way, you can leave the water bottles in the car and just enjoy a quick jaunt along the California coast.

Easily one of the most famous waterfalls in the Bay, it’s pretty hard to beat the wow-factor of a big ol’ waterfall on the beach. Take your pick of hikes leading up to this amazing formation, including the Palomarin Trail or Bear Valley Trail, among others. Be sure to check your tide charts so you don’t get swept off to sea, and leave your pooch and drones at home (seriously—Point Reyes doesn’t like drones).

A perfect low-key hike if you want an adventure without the miles. Arrive early in the morning, as parking fills up quickly, then choose from a number of trails that take visitors out the falls (most hikers opt for the 1.5-mile High Water Trail). This out-and-back will take you to the 25-foot Cascade Falls, an impressive reward at the end of a chill hike. If your hiking buddy has fur, be sure to just keep him on a leash to appease the park rangers.

Who knew this scorched mountain could have waterfalls? Visit in early spring and hike the Waterfalls Loop Trail to see a new side of Mount Diablo. Don’t worry — you’ll still get the pano vistas of neighboring outlooks, just with less heat and more rain forest-like scenery.

Definitely not the biggest falls you’ll see but pretty stunning nonetheless, hike through this beautiful forest to pass redwood groves and Douglas firs before arriving at two creeks with waterfalls. Dress in layers and bring along your furry friend for this hike. Then, choose from numerous hiking trails, and even opt to spend the night in one of its many campsites.

10 miles of big trees, steep canyons, and sparkling waterfalls—sign us up. This loop takes hikers into the heart of epic California wildlife, showcasing its most impressive features. Start at the Skyline to Sea Trail, then hop on Sunset Trail for the return. Wear your adventure boots for this one, as these giant trees do occasionally fall down, and hikers may have to do some light scramble along the trail.

Take a short hike filled with canyons and waterfalls, just an hour southeast of SF. Sunol Regional Wilderness is home to a number of trails, including this one which takes visitors through the highlights of its natural scenery. Just a four-mile out-and-back, we recommend you bring your camera and consider an overnight—despite the day-hike distance, you just won’t want to leave.

The perfect early spring hike, this trip takes visitors into the mossy green wonderland that is Baltimore Canyon. Starting off near Larkspur, hikers can choose between loop trails or short out-and-backs that will allow them to take in the magnificence of the falls. Fitt tip: Wear your waterproof boots and bring layers, as the area stays wet and chilly well into late spring.

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