Best Waterfalls in Northern California’s Cascades

John Soares, author of "Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions" and "100 Classic Hikes: Northern California," tells us his favorite waterfall hikes.
John Soares John Soares
Author, hiker, and blogger
May 23, 2018

Northern California is home to the southern reaches of the California Cascades, and this rugged volcanic landscape contains some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the western United States. Here are four of my favorites that are featured in my hiking guidebooks, all linked by CA Highway 89:

BURNEY FALLS

Burney Falls is my favorite waterfall in Northern California. Fed by underground springs, it pours 100 million gallons per day, every day, over a wide lip to drop 129 feet to pound the broad, blue pool at its base. Even on the hottest days (and gets quite hot here in summer), you'll feel the cool mist at the edge of the pool. A 5-mile network of trails travels above, below, and beside the falls, and extends downstream to nearby Lake Britton. Burney Falls is in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park on CA Highway 89 about 6 miles north of CA Highway 299.

Lower and Middle McCloud Falls

These two cataracts southeast of mighty Mount Shasta are favorites with locals and visitors alike. The McCloud River surges clear and cold, and the trail linking the two waterfalls allows swimmers to brave the deep and chilly water below each waterfall. Lower McCloud Falls (10 feet drop) is near the beginning of the trail, while a mile up the path the far more impressive Middle McCloud Falls features a 35-foot-face split by a buttress and framed by steep cliffs with pine and fir trees. Upper McCloud Falls (definitely not swimmable) is yet another .8 mile beyond. The trail begins at Fowler's Campground, reached by forest roads from the south side of Highway 89 about 15 miles east of the town of Mount Shasta, beyond the town of McCloud.

Hedge Creek Falls

Burney Falls and Lower and Middle McCloud Falls flow strongly year-round. By contrast, diminutive Hedge Creek Falls is best in winter and spring when fed by snow-melt and rainfall. A short path leads to the 20-footer, and you can gain a unique perspective by walking behind the waterfall into a small cave. The trail continues down to the banks of the Upper Sacramento River. Find the trailhead on the west side of Interstate 5 Exit 732 in Dunsmuir, just a few miles south of where Highway 89 ends. 

DH-Shasta-FrntCvr_WEB_SM.jpgThanks for sharing, John! Make sure to pick up a copy of Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions, out now, and connect with John on his Northern California Hiking Trails  blog.