It’s summertime in California, which means it’s waterfall chasing season for any outdoor adventurer. Finding great waterfalls is no easy task, but there is a town in Northern California that is a gateway to some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet.
Not only is Redding, California a marvelous destination for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s also easy to get to. It can be conveniently accessed via California’s Interstate 5, and now there is a direct flight from Los Angeles the Redding Airport. See the inexpensive and easy flight details for yourself.
Surrounding Redding is a smorgasbord of amazing waterfalls, all within about an hour drive of the city limits. Here are 19 breathtaking waterfalls just outside of Redding, California:
King’s Creek Falls is popular with hikers and photographers alike, these roaring falls are some of Lassen Park’s most dramatic falls clocking in at around a 40 foot height.
The waterfall is an amazing act of transformation – the lazy, meandering, small stream that we drove by and hiked by has metamorphosed into a crashing and cascading waterfall. It is a grand view, and to stand by it’s base is to stand at the very point of transformation. We were not the only one with this idea, as photographers and videographers came to this point, exactly at sunset (another transition) the same as us.
The 1.6-miles hike to Mill Creek Falls is an easy-moderate hike, with a perfect viewpoint that overlooks the falls. Although perhaps less dramatic than the more well-known Kings Creek Falls, these falls hold the record for highest vertical descent in Lassen Volcanic National Park at 75 feet.
Although it’s easy to get to the waterfall at the junction of East Sulphur and Bumpass creeks, due to the surrounding forest and rugged terrain, there are only two or three points from which it can be photographed.
3. Burney Falls
Getting enough of the NorCal destination that President Theodore Roosevelt named the “Eighth Wonder of the World” just isn’t possible.
Located just north of Redding between Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta in California’s lava country, is famous for its 129-foot waterfall, which cascades from Burney Creek down into Lake Britton. The falls are a sacred place for the Pit River Indian Tribe, who have held ceremonial rituals here for thousands of years.
The year-round falls are formed by melting snow from Burney Mountain, which travels through underground streams before hitting solid rock and flowing back to the surface. Each day, more than 100 million gallons of water plunge over the falls.
4. Pit River Falls
Located upstream from Lake Britton on the Pit River in a deep canyon sits on of NorCal’s most underrated waterfalls. Pit River Falls is a large, river wide volcanic ledge that cascades 30-feet to the riverbed below. The reason this waterfall does not find more acclaim in our region is simple: it’s really hard to get to.
Traversing down the canyon is nearly impossible, so most people get to the falls by raft or kayak. This has become a haven for kayakers around NorCal, with multiple channels to launch down the waterfall.
*Note: The trail to Hatchet Creek Falls is currently closed to visitors
Everybody loves Hatchet Falls (or Lions Slide Falls, depending on who you ask). A Montgomery Creek swimming hole, Hatchet Creek cascades down creating Lion Slide Falls and a large pool beneath. It’s one of the most recognizable, as well as most popular, swimming holes in NorCal. Its familiarity amongst locals is most certainly due to the giant fallen tree that lays right in the middle of the falls, creating a makeshift stairway for swimmers to climb and jump into the water.
At Hatchet Creek, kids can swim around in a shallower area formed by a dam. The waterfall and creek are easily accessible after a short trail walk. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer day. Another popular feature with this swimming hole is the cliffs on either side of the falls where adrenaline junkies can perform cliff jumps.
6. 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.
7. Montgomery Creek Falls
Montgomery Creek Falls is the smallest waterfall on this list, but since it is located right off of the bridge, you can see it from Montgomery Creek Road. This waterfall has multiple tiers, with the biggest tier at the bottom. If you want to see the upper tier of the falls, it’s just a quick walk up the hill.
This waterfall is lesser known in the area, so here is its location:
8. Sweetbriar 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:
The Little Backbone Creek natural waterslide on the McCloud arm of Shasta Lake has become a top destination for NorCal adventurers on sunny days. The smooth waterfall is the ultimate natural waterpark in the area. You can either hike or use a kayak to access the waterslide.
The scenic 20-minute hike up to the waterslide is reason enough to make a trip if you’re in the area. Bringing a waterproof camera along with you is never a bad idea. Not to mention you can spend an entire summer day enjoying plunges into the refreshing creek below the slide.
See what it’s like to slide down this epic waterfall:
10. Burstarse Falls
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.
11. 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.
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.
13. Faery Falls
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.
14. Lower McCloud Falls
Lower McCloud Falls is the smallest of the three tiers of McCloud Falls, 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…
15. 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:
16. 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.
Here’s the complete experience of the three tiers of McCloud Falls:
17. Grizzly Falls
Grizzly Falls, located in the heart of the Trinity Alps Wilderness, is not only an incredible 600-feet waterfall, it’s also extremely hard to get to. If you’re willing to trek 14-miles (roundtrip) up 5,400 feet of elevation, you deserve to gaze upon the beauty of this secluded gem.
The waterfall flows from Grizzly Lake, a beautiful place to camp (it’s probably a good idea to rest after that hike) and provides overhead views of the 2,000 feet granite wall that holds the lake in place. You will have to work to see this beauty, but nothing worth doing comes easy.
Lower Crystal Creek Falls is the only “man-made” waterfall in the park though you might not suspect it.
When the Central Valley Project was designed in the 1920s, an important component of it was the diversion of a large portion of the Trinity River into Whiskeytown Lake, and from there, down into the Sacramento River. A 17-mile tunnel was created to transport the water underground from Trinity Dam to Carr Powerhouse, and the tailings were dumped in the area near Crystal Creek Falls.
When it is necessary to shut down Carr Powerhouse for maintenance or to clean the tunnel, a valve is turned and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek. When the overflow structure was built, the Bureau of Reclamation rerouted Crystal Creek about 50 feet to the left to make a shortcut over the cliff, creating a picturesque waterfall. This is one of the easier hikes in the park, as the trail is mostly flat and lasts for less than a mile. Also containing picnic tables and barbeque grills, the Crystal Creek Falls Trail could prove a relaxing way to start the spring season off right.
Also known as Hidden Falls, this 220 foot-tall beauty, for years, remained an all but hidden treasure except for those fortunate enough to find its remote location. Before the establishment of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Center, there was no trail to this waterfall leaving loggers, miners and bushwhackers as the only beneficiaries of this stunning display of Mother Nature. Just recently, in 2004, a park biologist “discovered” the fall, and it quickly developed into one of the park’s top tourist attractions.
A unique feature this waterfall offers is the stairway that runs up the left side of it, which gives visitors an up-close view of the rushing water as it cascades down the fall’s rocky face. The stairs can get wet and slippery, so use caution, and be sure to hold onto the handrail when ascending the fall. Also, considering the trail weaves through old logging roads, on the hike, you get an interesting historical perspective on the economic activities that played a role in shaping Shasta County. Another appealing feature of the hike, running water parallels the trail the entire way making the experience all the more palatable on a sweltering summer day.
The James K. Carr Trail, which takes you to the falls, is a 3.4 mile loop that also connects to the Mill Creek Trail. A moderate to difficult hike – with a pleasant flat section to begin with, the trail then leads downward until you reach the footbridge over Crystal Creek. At this point, the trail ascends upwards for a while until it levels out, and leads you to the main attraction, the falls.
Note: When Whiskeytown’s Brandy Creek Falls and Boulder Creek Falls reopen to the public following the Carr Fire, they will be added to this list.
Happy waterfall hunting!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine