A Chilly Winter Morning at Burney Falls | Shasta County California
Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
I have mentioned more times that I can count, we love waterfalls. So much so that we often go out of our way to visit them on vacations. On our visit to Shasta County, Julie and I made no exception, as we decided to take over an hour-long detour to visit Burney Falls. Julie had come across Burney Falls while searching for ideas for a future excursion to Lassen Volcanic National Park. On this particular trip, we had debated whether or not it would be worth making the extra drive to the falls, as our primary adventure was hiking to Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park. However, after some deliberation, we decided that it would be a better idea to visit the falls in winter when the chances of high crowds was less, than it would be in the summer when there was bound to be a plethora of people. After a long day of hiking on Saturday, we woke up Sunday morning and headed for the famous falls.
From our hotel in Redding, we hopped on the 299 East and made the just over an hour drive to McArthur Burney Falls State Park. After a quick pit stop for gas in the small town of Burney, we turned left on the 89, also known as the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. The entrance to the park is just a short drive from the turnoff on the left. When we arrived, there was no one else around, so we stopped to pay our $8 entrance fee and parked near the trailhead.
Despite it being 9:00 a.m., this was the second day in a row that we were alone at our destination. Perhaps it had something to do with the temperature being a crisp 27 degrees, but it was a welcome change to summer crowds. We threw on our jackets and headed down the short 0.3 mile walk to the base of the falls.
The paved trail to the base of the falls is an easy walk and provides for a couple of different viewpoints along the way. When we reached the bottom, we quickly realized that the paved path was icy and made sure to tread carefully. There are a handful of clear paths that lead to the water’s edge, but with conditions being icy, we couldn’t take a step without the fear of slipping. While Julie set up for shots to capture the falls, I headed back up hill to grab our micro-spikes. Once again, I was glad they had been thrown in the car as they worked perfectly on the ice.
Walking down to the water was much easier with the spikes on and it was nice to feel the cool mist of the rushing water. At one point I noticed a guy trying carefully to come down the trail to the catch the falls from our viewpoint. I walked up the trail and I reminded him how slick the path was and showed him that I was wearing spikes to aid in traction. He thanked me for the heads-up and stayed on the main trail.
In total, we spent about an hour at the falls soaking up the cool weather and enjoying the scenery. While the drive to Burney Falls had added a bit more mileage to our day, we both agreed the decision was well worthwhile. Leaving the falls behind, we opted to take the slightly longer route home by staying on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. Julie and I were excited for the mountainous views we encountered along the way, and even made a brief stop at Lassen Volcanic National Park. We can’t wait for the snow to melt and the opportunity to hike to Lassen Peak in the summer!
Have you been to Burney Falls? Let us know in the comments!
For more on our trip to the Shasta/Redding area, be sure to check out our post on Hiking to Castle Dome.