Wave off the rescue ’copter

When it comes to search and rescue flybys, I don't expect to ever offer a frantic wave hello.

When it comes to search and rescue flybys, I don’t expect to ever offer a frantic wave hello.

This Sunday I plan to take a small group of intrepid hikers into the hills south of the Livermore Valley in search of an ephemeral gem: Murietta Falls, billed as the tallest waterfall in the San Francisco Bay Area. With roughly 100 feet of fall, Murietta Falls is much taller than the popular Berry Creek Falls at Big Basin State Park. Often by the end of March, the Falls dries up for the season, so right now is the time to discover this diabolical diamond in the rough.

Diabolical? Yup. Because if you’re not into the mild masochism (psychosis?) that results in anaerobic arrhythmia, leg of noodle, and collapsed lung, stay far, far away – this hike is brutal. It is both tortuous and torturous. Of all the hikes I’ve done in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d have to say this one is the most convoluted up-and-down can’t-ever-catch-your-breath rip-snorters; less than 10 percent of the hike occurs on level ground. The rest of the time, it’s either quad-killer climbs or knee-killer descents. The climbing starts immediately – you’ll climb almost 1500 feet in the first hour. And it’s going to take you all day. To climb, climb, climb, descend, descend, descend….

But when you finally do get to Murietta Falls, wave off the rescue ’copter, for you will behold not only the tallest, but the most remote waterfall in the Bay Area.

The Ohlone Wilderness always seems to beckon to the ardent Bay Area hiker.

The Ohlone Wilderness always seems to beckon to the ardent Bay Area hiker.

If you like to see waterfalls but feel that 12.2 miles and 4300 feet of elevation gain are too much for you, there are dozens of other waterfalls scattered around the San Francisco Bay Area, just beckoning you to feel their cool mists in Spring. If you like a good hike that’ll get you to your waterfall discoveries, no doubt you could visit three or four different Bay Area trails each weekend in the Spring and still not discover them all.

However, if you’re like me and appreciate waterfalls but are also a glutton for punishment, perhaps you’ll perversely enjoy Ohlone Trail to Murietta Falls. And when you’re done hiking, assuming you’re not starving for half a side of beef on a sesame seed bun, you’ve got plenty of great choices in the Livermore Valley for excellent wine tasting. Three of my favorite area wineries are Bent Creek, Murrietta’s Well, and Steven Kent.

See the exciting follow-up trip report titled A fully monstered two-carrot hike, complete with falls photos!

~winehiker

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