Tip Toe Falls, California

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Tip Toe Falls in November 2016

For all of the rain the San Francisco Bay area seems to get, it can be difficult to find waterfalls flowing in the region, especially in the summer and fall (when it tends to be drier). In October, I tried to find Brooks Falls (which is in San Pedro Valley County Park). While I think I found the location of the falls, there was literally no water flowing. And this was after it had rained in the previous 24 hours, but apparently not at the location of the falls.

So I arrived again, wondering whether I’d find any falls. It had been raining yet again, so my hopes were high. This time, I had better luck, finding both Tip Toe Falls and Castle Rock Falls, with Tip Toe having the higher flow.

Tip Toe Falls is in Portola Redwoods State Park west of San Jose. The drive to falls from San Jose isn’t a quick drive, as it’s mostly on winding curvy roads. And yet the drive is beautiful. After arriving at Portola Redwoods and paying the entrance fee, I started on my journey. You’ll have to choose carefully. There are a number of trails, and I was a bit confused about where to start…so I chose to start on the Iverson Trail near the visitor’s center. It ends up that about 0.5 miles in, there’s a “seasonal” bridge over Pescadero Creek. The creek was flowing well but the bridge was not over the creek. I really didn’t want to get wet so I turned around.

After arriving back at the parking lot, I decided to head toward the parking areas near one of the campgrounds. After driving over the bridge spanning Peters Creek, I veered to the right and parked in an area near the Circle Group Campground (which doesn’t require you to enter any campground). From there, I started the hiking up the road for a bit past the gate on the road and then veered to the right onto a trail that led in the direction of the Tip Toe Falls trail. It wasn’t very clearly marked. (I later found out if you keep walking along that road for maybe 0.15 miles more, you’ll end up at a sign that clearly indicates Tip Toe Falls).

From there, you connect into the Tip Toe Falls trail. I followed the signs for the falls, though realize you will end up at a creek crossing (across Pescadero/Falls Creek). In this case, I was able to find rocks sticking out the creek that I could use to cross the creek with minimal waterlog. I then continued to follow the signs to Tip Toe Falls, which meant I was walking along a trail that at times also seemed to be a flowing stream. Just when it seems like you’re not going to find the falls, you will! They’re off in a little cove, and while they’re not tall, they’re surrounded by beautiful ferns. I had the falls to myself, and it was honestly wonderful.

Directions:

  1. You need to end up on Portola State Park Rd. There are two options: One is to take exit 20 off of I-280 and drive southwest along Page Mill Rd until you end up at the Portola State Park. It’s not a short distance. The other is to take CA-35 (Skyline Boulevard) until you get to Page Mill Rd, then turn onto Page Mill Rd heading southwest.
  2. Once you arrive at Portola State Park Rd, which will be on your left if heading southwest, drive along the road to enter the park. As I said, the easiest path may be to pay at the visitor’s center, then continue over Peters Creek and park at one of the parking areas near the campgrounds. (Obtaining a map will help greatly.)
  3. Start the hike to the falls. With this one, expect to backtrack a bit.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, not super steep at any point, but it does require a bit of agility)
Height: 6′
Hike: ~2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Tip Toe Falls?

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