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Northern California Waterfall Hikes


Driving Interstate 5 through Northern California can get very boring and monotonous unless you know where to detour do. This quick little road trip between Redding and Mt Shasta has mountains, forests, lakes and waterfalls that are sure to make your road trip more exciting and create great memories along the way.

If you are heading north through California, Redding will be your last chance until Oregon to resupply at major stores and there isn’t much in the way of gas or grocery stores when you take this detour on highways 299 and 89.

Hatchet Creek and Hedge Creek Falls are really more just pit stops along the way, but Burney Falls and McCloud Falls have great campgrounds (Burney even has cabins) and either one or both could easily be a destination for a few days.

Hatchet Creek Falls

Hatchet Falls gets its name from the large tree trunk sitting in the middle of the falls that has been notched to make it easier to climb up and jump off. This was our favorite to play in mostly because we got there early so we had the place all to ourselves for an hour.  

The trailhead to Hatchet Creek Falls is about one hour west of Redding. From Highway 299, turn left on Big Bend Road and one mile down the road you will see a big dirt pull out right before the bridge.  Park here and follow the trail on the right side of the parking lot.  

This trail will only take you about ten minutes to reach the falls but is a little more difficult than the other waterfall trails as it does require climbing over and ducking under some fallen trees.    

On a side note:  If you are looking for a nice rock climbing crag on your way to the falls from Redding, stop by Burney Limestone.  We enjoyed spending the morning climbing here before going to explore Hatchet Falls.

Burney Falls

We were amazed by the beauty of this waterfall.  We have seen a lot of waterfalls throughout our travels, but the way the water cascades down the mossy rock in so many spots here reminded us of the beautiful falls in Plitvice National Park Croatia.  

Family photo at Burney Falls

This waterfall is located in McArthur-Burney Falls State Park.  You do have to pay $8 per vehicle to enter the park.  Instead, we just camped at this gorgeous campground ($35/night).  The trail to the overlook for the falls is very short (1 minute), but I recommend walking the paved trail to the bottom of the falls to feel the significant drop in temperature and the cool mist coming off the falls.  You can continue on this trail and do the one-mile loop around the waterfall.  

Burney falls

Try to make time to stay in the park and drive down to the lake that is fed by Burney Falls.  While you can’t swim in the falls, you can play in the lake, which has a nice beach area for swimming.  You can also rent kayaks, paddleboards, and motorboats at the lake too.  

This campground has a lot to offer with hiking and mountain biking trails.  We enjoyed our three-night stay here A LOT!

McCloud Falls

Like Hatchet Falls, this is a great waterfall for jumping into and also nice for swimming in. The kids enjoyed climbing over the rocks to get to the water even though it was a little more crowded than Hatchet Falls was. But that meant we had a crowd cheering us on while we jumped off the rocks into the freezing cold pool of snow melt.   

Middle McCloud Falls

We parked at Fowlers Campground (I wish we had camped here because this campground is beautiful and only $15/night) and started on the paved trail from the campground and headed east.  At the east end of the campground, the trail turns from paved to dirt.  Follow the dirt trail for about fifteen minutes to get to the middle falls.  

Stop by McCloud to grab food at Mountain Star Cafe or Kyody Coffee.

Hedge Creek Falls

We first discovered these falls on a previous road trip in 2012.  It’s a very short hike to the falls and great for smaller children as the pools are easy to access.  The kids loved that you can walk behind this waterfall.  If you feel more adventurous, you can also check out Mossbrae Falls in Dunsmuir, however, it may be permanently closed now.

Make sure you fill your water bottles at the water fountain at the start of the trail.  The water here is so delicious!   Dunsmuir is a really cute town that is worth a few hours exploring or head up to Mt Shasta for some great hikes and food.

Did we miss your favorite waterfall?  Let us know in the comments or share any questions you have about this NorCal waterfall road trip.

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