Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou
When many people think of California, they think of the beaches in SoCal or the Golden Gate Bridge in the Bay Area. But for much of the state, California is covered in pristine wilderness that rivals any of the world-renown outdoor destinations around the world.
The best way to see that pristine wilderness in California? Finding the waterfalls of Siskiyou County.
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Siskiyou's Hedge Creek Falls might not be the mightiest waterfall around, but its behind-the-falls cave makes it one of the coolest. Access info at link in bio. 📷: @corey_sit_photography #discoversiskiyou #seesiskiyou #wanderabove #venturebeyond #siskiyou #visitcalifornia #californiasnorth #siskiyoucounty #waterfallwednesday #waterfalls #chasingwaterfalls #dunsmuir #norcal #hedgecreekfalls
Calling Siskiyou County the Land of Waterfalls is fitting, since there seems to be one around every corner surrounding the mighty Mount Shasta. The active volcano certainly adds to this insane amount of falling water, providing year-round snowmelt and bursting springs all over to create 18 stunning waterfalls in the area. Some are big and some are small, some are remote and some are popular destinations, some are little known and some are world-renown. Whatever fits your waterfall fancy, there’s something for everyone in California’s Far North.
Check out this map of all waterfalls you can explore:
Want to learn more? Let’s go on an adventure to find the 18 waterfalls of Siskiyou County:
Lower McCloud Falls
Probably the most popular waterfalls in Siskiyou County are the three tiers of McCloud Falls. Lower McCloud Falls is the smallest of the tiers, but it has the easiest access and is the most visible. The falls also have multiple mid-tier platforms for people to jump into the water when the temperature is suitable.
With a parking lot sitting next to these falls, this is the most crowded of the three falls, but the more you walk up the trail to the higher falls, the less crowd you will see…
Middle McCloud Falls
Middle McCloud Falls is the largest and most popular of the three McCloud waterfalls. The large pool below creates a fantastic swimming hole and the shear size and symmetry of the waterfall make it the perfect location for photographers.
This destination will be rather full with visitors during the summer but can give anyone spectacular views any season. And extreme athletes will make the pilgrimage to this spot year-round. Especially cliff-jumpers:
Upper McCloud Falls
Upper McCloud Falls is a big beautiful waterfall but it typically takes a backseat to the more popular Middle and Lower McCloud Falls. Also, Upper Falls can be difficult to descend into the canyon to get down to the water. But you can still find views at the vista near the top of the trail.
When you can get a look at Upper Falls from up close, it can be quite beautiful:
And when you hike the entire McCloud Falls Trail Loop, you’re in for one epic day of waterfalls chasing:
The Whitney Falls Trail accesses the lower flanks of Mount Shasta’s northwestern side. Although the trail was initially constructed to serve as an approach to the climbing route that ascends the Whitney Glacier, today it functions primarily as a hiking trail that leads to an overlook of Whitney Falls, one of the four named waterfalls on Mount Shasta.
The “easiest” to reach of several falls on Mt. Shasta, this limited waterfall creates a seasonally spectacular sight in early summer. Here’s where you can find it:
Mud Creek Falls
Mud Creek Falls is the largest waterfall on Mt. Shasta in terms of volume, but is sometimes dwarfed by the epic views that surround it. This 200-foot cascade is accessible via the Clear Creek Trail, which is considered the least technical trail to the summit.
Fed by both glaciers and springs, it has the highest volume by far of any of the falls on Mount Shasta. The high volume of water erupts over the edge of a band of hard, erosion resistant rock and thunders down into a narrow chasm. Here’s where you can find it on Mount Shasta:
Ash Creek Falls
With a 300+ foot drop on the majestic East side of Mt. Shasta, Ash Creek Falls is one of the tallest and most spectacular vistas in the region, and was supposedly John Muir’s favorite spot on the mountain.
There’s no direct trail to the waterfall’s overlook but it can be viewed via the Brewer Creek Trailhead, or from the Black Fox Forest Lookout (it’s recommended you bring binoculars). Want to see it for yourself? Go here:
Wagon Creek Falls
For hikers willing to tackle the trek to Wagon Creek Falls, they will be rewarded with a classically beautiful forty-foot waterfall, followed by another shorter waterfall just upstream. The falls can be accessed via Wagon Creek from the Mt. Eddy Bowl.
It’s about 35-40 feet high and though not a world-beater when it comes to size, it remains a very beautiful falls nonetheless. As a bonus, there is another, shorter and less classic waterfall just upstream. Here’s where you can find it:
A 33-foot cascade located about 4 miles in along Kelsey National Recreation Trail in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The trail travels through lush forest with subtle remnants of the gold mining days when mule trains moved cargo along the route, and provides great views of King’s Castle marble outcrop near the top of the trail.
This is a difficult hike and so remote that there isn’t even a photo you can find of this waterfall on the internet. But if you want to head into the wilderness to see for yourself, here’s where you should go:
Horestail Falls & Ponytail Falls
No, this isn’t the famed Horsetail Falls that provides visitors the “Firefall” in Yosemite every year, but it is a fun little waterfall in the deep wilderness of California’s Far North.
Horsetail Falls is one of the more remote waterfalls in Siskiyou County, but this reliable marble-white cascade has the advantage of being accessible by car and the added bonus of a second small cascade just a half a mile farther north known as Ponytail Falls.
If you’d rather hoof it, there’s also a difficult hiking trail that starts from the tiny town of Seiad Valley fifty miles east of Yreka. Small rock slides can occasionally block road access, so check local conditions before heading north on Seiad Creek Road. Here’s where you can find the remote waterfalls:
Ukonom Twin Falls
Located on the Klamath River near Happy Camp is a little-known waterfall that looks like the mini version of Burney Falls!
A lovely twin pair of twenty-five foot falls located along the Klamath River south of Happy Camp. Hiking the mile here can be a bit rugged from the river, but the adventure is worth it. Added bonus: there’s a place to swim beneath the falls! Several river rafting tour guides also offer excursions, or you can check with a ranger or your local lodge owner for alternative ways to get there.
Here’s where you can find it:
A short but impressive waterfall with year-round beauty located off Quartz Valley Road outside of Ft. Jones. In the winter, ice and snow give the waterfall an ethereal look of its own, while summer finds locals bathing in the pool below. It is accessible by a very short though somewhat steep trail with parking nearby.
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My 84 year old Grandmother-in-law taught me Quartz Valley has been known as “Little Alaska”. While some other areas have slushy snow, we woke to a winter wonderland being created with pillowy, cotton balls. Shackleford Falls boasts some impressive icicles and snowy scenes, adding to “Little Alaska’s” character. #quartzvalley #shacklefordfalls #siskiyoucounty #northerncalifornia #freshsnow #winterwonderland #icicles #waterfall #winter #snow #nature #ruralliving #getoutside
Here is this little-known waterfall’s location:
East Boulder Creek Falls
If you’re hiking in the Scott Mountains, you may not be going just to see Boulder Creek Falls, but it’s the perfect place to stop on your hike to East Boulder Lake.
In the Scott Mountains just south of Callahan are Boulder Creek Falls – a small but scenic waterfall on the trail to East Boulder Lake. Combining the two destinations is the perfect out adventure in the area as a fantastic hike and an excellent introduction to the Scott Mountains portion of the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Here’s where you can find it:
Combining history and nature, the Ney Springs Canyon Trail near Siskiyou Lake in Mount Shasta City is an easy hike through the 19th century ruins of Ney Springs Resort with a waterfall payoff. With the length of the trail being only 1.2 miles at a low-elevation, this is an easy hike that can be done any time of the year.
A little over 3/4 of the way up the trail, you will find the old ruins of the Ney Springs Resort, a popular destination for local tourists in the 1800’s. From there on continue approximately 0.25 miles down the trail to gain access to Faery Falls. Depending on water flows, you will find a lively 40-ft cataract with a great vantage point.
Getting to Burstarse Falls, located in the heart of the Castle Crags Wilderness, is a moderate hike located right off the Pacific Crest Trail.
Burstarse Falls actually consists of two waterfalls. Many people looking for the falls stop at Lower Burstarse Falls, thinking they’ve made it. While the lower falls is a beautiful 25-foot waterfall with a small pool at the bottom to take a dip (it’s cold!), the real Burstarse Falls is located up the trail a ways and consists of a 50-foot waterfall with small cascades below.
Root Creek Falls
Root Creek Falls is a large, multi-tiered waterfall in the Castle Crags State Park just below Castle Dome. Though the hike to Castle Dome is usually considered the best the park has to offer, the hike to Root Creek and Root Creek Falls are not far behind. Hikers can take different routes to get to Root Creek. Deciding which one to take boils down to how much time you have, if you are willing to pay a $10 entrance fee and if you want to check out Root Creek Falls.
There is a small collection of trails that leads towards the vista point for Root Creek Falls, and ultimately they all lead to the creek or the vista point. From the vista you can look up and see the steep falls with the backdrop of the wild and stark crags, with white clouds looming even farther behind. It’s a beautiful and perfectly vertical line of sight up the canyon and the falls.
What Sweetbriar Falls lacks in size it makes up for in easy access and year-round flows. Located just off the Sweetbrier exit of Interstate 5, the 20-foot waterfall is far from the most impressive in NorCal, but it makes for a quick little waterfall adventure for anyone in a hurry.
The big mystery with the waterfall is its spelling. The I-5 exit calls it Sweetbrier, but the locals call the waterfall Sweetbriar. Either way, here’s where you’ll find it:
Hedge Creek Falls
Similar to hideout entrances seen in Batman movies and the Legend of Zorro, Hedge Creek Falls cascades in front of the passage to a 12-foot-high cave. The narrow waterfall hardly obscures the not-so-secret cave meaning that you won’t stumble upon any masked heroes on your trip to the feature. Still, the trip the Hedge Creek Falls is well worth the drive the Dunsmuir, CA. Along with the waterfall, visitors can take in incredible views of the Sacramento River and Mt. Shasta from the Hedge Creek Falls Trail.
As you begin, the path starts to descend moderately, and you pass a tiny creek. As the grade of the canyon gets steeper, you begin to go down via a number of switchbacks until you’ll start to hear flowing and falling water. Before you know it, you’re at Hedge Creek Falls. At this point, the trail continues behind the waterfall providing an intimate feel for hikers. Somedays, you can spot rock climbers attempting to ascend the igneous rock wall that reaches 30-35 feet to the source of the cascade.
Have fun chasing waterfalls in Siskiyou County!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine