Winter Rains Activate 200-foot Coastside Cascade – Bring your Binoculars

Perhaps you’ve heard we’re having an extreme rainy season Coastside. In addition to easing California’s drought, the ongoing string of winter storms has activated scores of dormant and seasonal waterfalls throughout the state.

So, inspired by a recent article by Tom Stienstra, outdoors writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, we slipped out between storms late one recent afternoon to San Pedro Valley Park in search of Brooks Falls – the Coastside’s very own waterfall.

The park map locates the falls as a short – less than a mile – walk from the parking lot up Brooks Creek Trail. We anticipated the trail would rise gently with the creek, perhaps to the base of a roaring photogenic cataract. Think Bridalveil Fall at Yosemite National Park.

We were wrong.

The trail instead features a babbling brook that, annoyingly, is heard but not seen as the steep, narrow path quickly rises some 600 feet in elevation from the parking lot before reaching an overlook to a rather distant falls.

While it wasn’t Yosemite, we still enjoyed the distant beauty of the multi-tiered ribbon waterfall as it tripped 200-feet down the north face of Montara Mountain – certainly a sight we never anticipated finding so close to home. We also enjoyed the opportunity to sit, catch our breath and enjoy the view from the overlook’s well-placed bench.

For our return, we debated simply retracing our steps to the parking lot. It was late; the air increasingly chill; and we were tuckered. But inspired by a passing hiker’s tale of a second waterfall just a short way up the trail, we sucked it up and climbed an additional 100 yards, then another 100 yards, and 100 yards more until the Brooks Creek Trail intersected with the Montara Mountain Trail. Alas, no second waterfall.

The extra effort, however, did reward us with an abrupt change in landscape as the eucalyptus transitioned to diverse coastal scrub, as well as a nice view of the shoreline stretching north from Pacifica to San Francisco. We particularly enjoyed the stands of mature, gnarled Montara manzanita and Madrone shrubs with their smooth red and orange bark that hug the switchbacks immediately after the overlook.

IMG_0445We also got a chuckle out of the warning sign at the intersection of the trails that seems to suggest that offering up a small child might be an effective way to deal with the highly rare, though real, threat of encountering a mountain lion on the trail.

Note to selves: “Bring a small child when hiking Montara Mountain.”

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