7 Dreamy Waterfall Hikes in the Bay Area and Beyond

7 Dreamy Waterfall Hikes in the Bay Area and Beyond

Picture of Jordan Reid

Jordan Reid

New-ish to California, Jordan shares his favorite gems (hikes, waterfalls, unique festivals and more) about the 31st state on his Instagram, @discover_california_

This year’s rains have fed countless waterfalls around California, and outdoor enthusiasts are looking for the best waterfall hikes in the Bay Area and beyond. We’ve compiled the what, where and how of the best places to see waterfalls around the state, whether you’re setting off from the Bay Area or elsewhere in the state

Hikers should note that waterfall sizes vary based on the season! The lush pictures seen below were taken during the wet season, which usually last from winter through spring. 

Featured photos by Jordan Reid. 

Long-exposure of the Cataract falls waterfall hike in the Bay Area
Photo by Jordan Reid.

Cataract Falls

What: Cataract Falls, near Stinson Beach, Marin County

How Long: We recommend the two-mile out-and-back hike. The trailhead is right off the street, with some steep inclines along the way. 

Where: Marin County – see it on AllTrails

Parking: There is minimal street parking near the trailhead where we parked. We recommend arriving early or going on weekdays to help get a spot. 

Accessibility: This requires a lot of uphill hiking. There are no paved portions. 

Facilities: There are limited picnic tables and bathrooms about halfway into the hike.

Vernal Falls

What: Vernal Falls, Mist Trail. 

How Long: 3.1 miles out and back 

Where: Yosemite Valley – see it on nps.gov

Parking: Parking is available throughout Yosemite Valley. We recommend finding a spot in the lot near the Upper Pines Campground.  

Accessibility: A paved trail leads up to the footbridge that crosses the Merced River. Beyond that, hiking on unpaved trails is required. 

Facilities: Seasonal bathrooms and a water fill-up station are just past the Merced River footbridge.

View of hikers on a trail and beautiful mountains on the vernal hills waterfall hike
Photo by Jordan Reid.
Long exposure of a waterfall with surrounding greenery at Tiptoe Falls in Portola redwood state park
Photo by Jordan Reid.

Tiptoe Falls

What: Tiptoe Falls 

How Long: 1.2 miles out and back. 

Where: Portola Redwoods State Park – see it on AllTrails

Parking: $10 entrance fee to park at Portola Redwoods State Park. 

Accessibility: Requires hiking on unpaved trails the whole way. 

Facilities: Restrooms and a visitor center are available before starting your hike. 

Faery Falls

What: Faery Falls 

How Long: 1.4 miles out and back. 

Where: Mt. Shasta – see it on AllTrails

Parking: You can park at a dirt lot right at the trailhead. Be advised the last 0.5 miles of the road to get here is unpaved and littered with potholes! 

Accessibility: No paved trails. 

Facilities: There are no restrooms or facilities of any kind. You’re out in the wild for this one!

Jordan Reid stands in front of large waterfall at Faery Falls hike in Mount Shasta, California
Photo by Jordan Reid.
Jordan Reid stands over tall waterfall in Sanborn Canyon Creek waterfall hike in California
Photo by Jordan Reid.

Sanborn Creek

What: Sanborn Creek – This is a slight cheat since there isn’t a large waterfall, but hiking along this creek is a beautiful experience. 

How Long: 1.5 miles out and back. 

Where: Sanborn County Park, Saratoga – see it on AllTrails

Parking: We parked on the side of the road next to the trailhead. Parking is limited! 

Accessibility: This trail requires hiking on uneven ground and a river crossing. 

Facilities: Don’t expect any restrooms or picnic tables here.

Yosemite Falls

What: Yosemite Falls 

How Long: A short but rewarding 1.2-mile loop will take you to the base of lower Yosemite Falls. 

Where: Yosemite Valley – see it on nps.gov

Parking: There is parking near the trailhead, but it can fill up fast during peak hours. 

The Yosemite shuttle system can also drop you off close to the trail. 

Accessibility: The entire 1.2-mile hike is on a paved trail, and there isn’t much elevation gain. 

Facilities: This trail has plenty of picnic tables and restrooms nearby. 

Large waterfall spilling into the Yosemite Valley, California for waterfall hike
Photo by Jordan Reid.
Waterfall seen from the trail in Uvas Canyon in Morgan Hill, California
Photo by Jordan Reid.

Uvas Canyon

What: Uvas Canyon 

How Long: A short 1.5-mile out-and-back hike will take you past three stunning waterfalls. 

Where: Morgan Hill – see it on AllTrails

Parking: A reservation is required to enter Uvas Canyon County Park. And there is a $6 park fee. 

Accessibility: The entire hike is along uneven, unpaved dirt trails. 

Facilities: Near the park’s entrance, there are restrooms and tables where you can relax for a nice lunch. 

And that wraps up our 7 dreamy waterfall hikes in the Bay Area and Beyond! Which one are you going to explore next?

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