NorCal has a seemingly endless amount of gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes and none of them provide the same experience:
Burney Falls is the most visually stimulating. Hatchet Creek Falls has great cliff jumping. Heart Lake has the best view. McCloud Falls has three awesome waterfalls. But when it comes to waterfalls and swimming holes, none are more blissful than Potem Falls.
Located near Montgomery Creek, CA off of Hwy 299, Potem Falls is a 70 foot waterfall on the Pit River arm of Shasta Lake. For good reasons, it has become a popular weekend swim spot in recent years. The easy quarter-mile hike to the Potem Falls watering hole makes it an attractive option for families. If you desire some peace and quiet, take a mid-week trip to the falls when it’s often deserted. Potem Falls also makes for a romantic date spot.
Approaching the narrow, but scenic Potem waterfall, you’ll encounter a large pool perfect for swimming and lounging around. In Latin, “potem” means “to drink”, and after seeing the translucent water of Potem Creek, you might be compelled to do so. However, we don’t recommend it.
We reported that NorCal waterfalls had VERY heavy flows this winter, but none saw more influx of water than Potem Falls (except maybe Burney Falls), as shown in the photo below:
When plunging into the Potem pool, be prepared for the frigid temperature of the water. You can certainly get used to the cold especially on a scolding hot day, but it can be overwhelming at first. Once you’ve swum around a bit, add some excitement to your visit by climbing on the surrounding rocks, and jumping in. Be absolutely sure you’ve got a safe landing.
As blissful as the experience might be, Potem Falls can also be used for some extreme fun. There is a little rope swing off to the side and pro cliff jumpers, like local cliff jumping celebrity Robert Wall, also use the swim hole for death defying stunts:
To get to Potem Falls you need to find an easy to miss road called Fenders Ferry Rd between Round Mountain and Montgomery Creek. After 3.5 miles, Fenders Ferry Rd will turn to a well maintained dirt road passable in most passenger cars. You now have 5.7 miles to go to the unmarked trail head. The road will drop down from the canyon wall and a narrow bridge will take you across the Pit arm of Lake Shasta. From the end of the bridge you have 0.6 miles to go. Look for a pull out on the left side of the road. The trailhead is not clearly marked so stay alert.
Enjoy your blissful adventure at Potem Falls!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine