Burney Falls Hike | Redding & Shasta-Cascade
Burney Falls Hike | Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
California is home to a wide variety of natural wonders, and perhaps one of the finest examples is Burney Falls. Located in the northernmost part of the state and within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Burney Falls is a spectacular site, off the beaten path. A visit to Shasta County would be incomplete without a trip to Burney Falls. See why Burney Falls is one of our favorite and most easily accessible waterfalls in California.
Fees: $10 per vehicle for day-use access (National Park Passes are not valid in State Parks)
Crowds: High. Don’t expect to have the falls to yourself if you visit during the peak season (May – September). We recommend arriving very early in the morning (before 9:00 a.m.) or in the shoulder seasons. Once the parking lot fills, rangers will close access to the park for cars and it’s a lengthy walk from any outside parking.
Date Visited: February 11 & July 14, 2018
Located in northeastern California, Burney Falls is a trip best made in conjunction with exploring other aspects of Shasta County. A trip here is a great opportunity to visit nearby Lassen National Park, Castle Crags State Park and the fabulous Mount Shasta.
Driving Directions to Burney Falls
From the Bay Area, the drive to McArthur Burney Falls State Park is just under 5 hours and approximately 300 miles. Once you leave the Sacramento area, the majority of the drive will be on Interstate 5 before connecting with CA 299 East, passing through the tiny town of Burney and then taking CA 89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) to the park.
Where to Stay near Burney Falls
Camping: Within McArthur Burney Falls State Park there are 100 campsites without hookups as well as a number of cabins that can be rented. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance through Reserved California.
Hotels: We recommend staying in either Redding (1 hour and 13 minutes, southwest) or Mt. Shasta (58 minutes, northwest) if you are looking for hotel options. We have made Redding our home base on numerous trips to the region as it is centrally located and provides a good mix of hotel and dining options.
Burney Falls Hike
While there are 5 miles of hiking available in McArthur Burney Falls State Park, the star of the show is 129 foot Burney Falls. One of the unique features of Burney Falls is the namesake creek flowing underground and funneling water to the falls. It flows out in so many different areas, the result looks as though you are witnessing the main falls and many other smaller falls surrounding it.
From the parking lot, there is an overlook to the falls below at just 150 feet. Easy right? To get to the base of the falls, a paved path descends 0.3 miles for an up close and personal view. If you follow the Burney Creek Trail you can continue to Lake Britton or link up with the Rim Trail and complete the 1.2 mile loop.
On our first visit to the falls in February, 2018, the temperature was 27 degrees and part of the lower section the trail was iced over making it very slippery. We were fortunate to have brought our microspikes (which we never leave home in winter without) with us and could get closer to the shore of the falls. While Julie took photos, I spent a good chunk of time cautioning others of the hazardous conditions. Arriving early in the morning during the winter proved to be a great idea as we only encountered a small number of other visitors.
During our summer visit in July, 2018, the falls were packed full of tourists looking to escape the heat of the day. The falls are beautiful any time of year, but we certainly enjoyed having the place mostly to ourselves in February.
If you’re looking for a snack, there is a small concession store located in the parking lot area. If you visit in summer as we did the second time around, you might even spot some PCT hikers picking up their resupplies. Fans of the book Wild will note that this is the location where Cheryl Strayed stopped before making her way to Castle Crags for a new pair of hiking boots.
It’s easy to spend a good chunk of your day here, taking in the falls and having a picnic (there are seats for 100 people in a shaded area). We spent about an hour at Burney Falls on both of our visits due to crowds and temperatures, but it’s a place we are happy to return to over and over again!
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Our favorite Gear for this adventure:
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