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NorCal Waterfall Guide

Northern California is known to be a place of adventure, from coastal views to redwood trees, epic roads, and fascinating bodies of water. NorCal is a popular area if you want to fulfill some bucket list items. I created a list of several waterfalls you must visit if you love to hike. This NorCal Waterfall Guide will give you an idea of some outstanding waterfalls to explore if you find yourself on this side of California.

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Read [Read: Road Trip -Siskiyou County] if you’re heading to the Mt. Shasta region.

Alamere Falls – Bolinas

This tidefall is located in Point Reyes National Seashore, northwest of San Francisco. Depending on your route, it can take anywhere from 11-13 miles. You begin in the forest, and it leads you to the ocean, where you see this epic tidefall, and it is a very scenic hike. One of the Bay Area’s most iconic waterfall locations.

Trail Guide: Link

Alamere Falls

Berry Creek Falls – Big Basin Redwoods State Park – Currently Closed

Berry Creek Falls remains closed due to wildfire damage. I wanted to add it here to save for later, but this loop is typically a 13-mile loop. Once it reopens, the distance could change, but it is a waterfall that will leave you amazed – everyone who has visited loves to take pictures on the tree trunk, be careful it is slippery, and it’s high.

Berry Creek Falls

Bridal Veil Falls – Pollock Pines

This waterfall is unique because it’s on the side of the road. It does not require any hiking, not even much of a walk, just a few steps. It may be easy to miss when you are driving by. In the wintertime, it may freeze up as well, so if you are heading down this road (Highway 50) to the Sierra Nevada, this is not one you want to miss.

Trail Guide: Link

Bridal Veil Falls

Burney Falls – Burney

Burney Falls is one of California’s most visited locations, this fantastic waterfall is a big one, and it’s only a short hike down to see its beauty. You can also hike a loop after seeing the waterfall, which connects through parts of the PCT. The trail is easy and gives you views of the waterfall from different angles, like the one pictured below.

Trail Guide: Link

Burney Falls

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Hedge Creek Falls – Dunsmuir

Hedge Creek Falls is very short, not much hiking is required, and very close to the parking lot. It is worth checking off the list if you are in Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir is already known for many epic waterfalls, and with this one being a short walk down, why not stop by for a visit? There isn’t much room in the area once you are at the falls, so if you’d like to take some pictures, you may have to wait a little bit to get a good shot without people in your frame.

Trail Guide: Link

Hedge Creek Falls

Horsetail Falls – Twin Bridges

This location is one of a kind – one that you may see or could possibly miss on your way to Lake Tahoe. This waterfall is grand! The trail isn’t always marked properly and can be dangerous as you ascend higher above. The views are so rewarding when it’s accessible. You may spot it from afar if you are near this area.

Trail Guide: Link

Horsetail Falls

Kings Creek Falls – Lassen Volcanic National Park

Kings Creek Falls is such a unique place to hike to. You start off in the forest, pass several meadows, and get some elevation here and there. There are other waterfalls in the area that lead to this one. It is not difficult to get to, but it does require a bit of a hike down for about 2 miles or so. Coming up is a little more challenging because you are going uphill, but it is manageable – overall, it is a nice hike to visit this amazing National Park.

Trail Guide: Link

Kings Creek Falls

Leavitt Falls – Sonora Pass

One of my favorite locations that I know so well and a road trip I often recommend – is Sonora Pass. Leavitt Falls has both a lookout point (which is what you see pictured below) but it is also a hiking trail. I haven’t had the opportunity to make the trail yet, but I wanted to add this to my guide so you know that there is an option to see this waterfall by hiking or driving to the lookout. Regardless, I think you should check out if you are driving through.

Trail Guide: Link

Leavitt Falls

Maple Falls – Aptos

Aptos has a lot of unique trails, and the Santa Cruz Mountains never disappoint, either. One of my favorite recommendations is at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park – Maple Falls. This fall is popular in the spring and summer, so I suggest going early. I had this place to myself for a while, and it felt so good to be there.

Trail Guide: Link

Maple Falls

McCloud Falls – Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls

Imagine going somewhere to see one waterfall only to realize there are three! I have placed them in the order below. Upper and Middle Falls are known for pictures. Lower Falls is a popular swim hole. This place does get pretty crowded, but if you time it well, you may get lucky – better yet, go in the winter when it’s filled with snow. 

Trail Guide: Link

McWay Falls – Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

This is by far the most popular body of water in NorCal. Pictured millions of times for how rare it is; I am sure many of you have seen it, even if it’s through pictures. Located in the Big Sur area, it is a short walk to get this view. You cannot go down to the falls, and most of the trail is no longer accessible due to erosion; mother nature for you! Despite this fact, this location is one of those places you don’t want to miss if you plan to visit Carmel, Monterey, or stay in Big Sur. 

Trail Guide: Link

McWay Falls

Mossbrae Falls – Dunsmuir

One of the most visited locations in Dunsmuir, and I fully understand why after visiting it. I was stunned that this place existed; it sure was beautiful. This location is a bit sketchy because it is a rocky path on a train track, and the train is still active. The second part is that it is considered private property. If you visit, you’re doing it at your own risk, so please be cautious of your surroundings and do some research before you go.

Trail Guide: Link

Mossbrae Falls

Nevada Falls – Yosemite National Park

Nevada Falls is quite the beauty. Nearby is Vernal Falls – the more popular of the two. You will likely see Vernal Falls first and then come across Nevada Falls; this was a great snack spot when I was there and much quieter than some other locations in Yosemite. I highly recommend this one.

Trail Guide: Link

Nevada Falls

Vernal Falls – Yosemite National Park

I call this one the beast of all waterfalls, and I mean that as a compliment. I had the pleasure of seeing it when it was flowing hard, and it can be a bit intimidating. This hike is certainly not for the faint of heart; it requires a lot of going up – it can get slippery, and it is a challenging hike but doable. I did this with my children when they were very young, and they also hiked most of it. This one should be on your list when visiting Yosemite if you want to see how spectacular it is from above – of course, the bonus is seeing this massive waterfall.

Trail Guide: Link

Yosemite

Wapama Falls – Yosemite National Park

A secluded part of Yosemite NP is Wapama Falls. I highly recommend not attempting this trail in hot conditions; it was brutal! But the waterfall itself was so great to see. This was a highlight of visiting Yosemite. This part of the park is less traveled but just as lovely. When you begin the trail, you will see the Hetch Hetchy Dam. The reservoir supplies water for the San Francisco Bay Area, so swimming in the falls is prohibited. This is my first recommendation if you are headed to Yosemite; you will be stunned to see this place! Bring lots of water if you do visit in the summer and springtime.

Trail Guide: Link

Hetch Hetchy

Sonora Pass – Hidden Waterfalls

Lastly, I wanted to include two hidden waterfalls that have no names. These are two of my go-to spots when I am in Sonora Pass. Finding the coordinates to this location was no easy task, so if you decide to visit, please be mindful and Leave No Trace. I often don’t share these types of locations but want others to be able to enjoy them, too.

The waterfall to the left can be missed if you drive too fast, so take your time when you are about to reach its location. There is parking on the opposite side of the road, just enough for 2-3 cars, but be cautious when crossing the road. It is so serene to hear this waterfall, and it’s never crowded. Coordinates 19’34.4″N 119°41’12.6″W.

The waterfall on the right is part of a creek. I take an extended break every time I go and enjoy each view and sound. This is my favorite hangout spot in Sonora Pass; I hope you see why. Please let me know if you decide to visit any of these because of this guide. Coordinates 38°18’32.6″N 119°34’59.7″W.

Check current conditions before you go: Link

Your Thoughts: What is your favorite waterfall?

This post was about Waterfalls in Norcal. Do you have a favorite waterfall you love to go back to? Share a comment below with your favorite, and I will let you know my favorite waterfall in NorCal.

2 Comments

  1. Love the waterfall blog, your descriptions are informative and the pictures are vivid , as always can’t wait yo see your next one

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope you found some good insight on these epic waterfalls out here 🙂

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