Best waterfalls in Northern California

All pictures are my own unless otherwise noted/sourced; do not use without permission.

california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls

Waterfalls. There's something about them that makes us feel a sense of peace and calmness. Beauty, nature, and peace blended together beautifully. They say that waterfalls help with stress relief and mood. So chasing waterfalls works wonders for the soul.

California is home to many things, such as lakes, beaches, coasts, forests, deserts, mountains, and including some of the most beautiful and best waterfalls. These waterfalls are located in Northern California and they are just stunning!

Read on for my recommendations on some of the best waterfalls in Northern California!

Burney Falls

IMPORTANT UPDATE 2024: Due to heavy visitors and damaged trails, Burney Falls is closed indefinitely until they complete a huge project. Not to say that you can’t see Burney Falls, but views of the falls is extremely limited. You can only view from the viewing area at the top of the falls. The trails leading to the falls are also closed. For more info about this closure, click HERE.

california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls

One of the most fascinating and beautiful waterfalls in all of California is Burney Falls! You cannot miss this 129-foot Burney Falls whenever in Northern California!

This fall has gained a lot of attention recently so it gets really packed in the late spring to early fall, and especially on weekends.

Located in the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Burney Falls’ landscape is formed and shaped by volcanic activities and erosions. Burney Falls is huge, but also gets superfluous water from springs, making it much more beautiful and mistier (you’ll feel it more when you’re at the bottom of the falls).

There are a few trails that take you right to the bottom of the falls: Burney Creek Trail, Pioneer Cemetery Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail. However, the main one is the Falls Loop Trail, which gives you stunning views of Burney Falls, teasing you all the way to the pool of the falls.

Falls Loop Trail

Distance: 1.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy with some downhill / uphill

Permit Required: No

**when parking lot is full, visitors will be turned away.

**Do not park on Hwy 89 as it is illegal and your car may be towed.

Restrooms: Near main trailhead

Cost

Park Day-Use: $10 Per Vehicle

Overnight Camping: $35 Per Night (per vehicle)

Additional Overnight Camping Vehicles: $10 Per night.

This is a map of the Burney Falls area / Falls Loop Trail, sourced from parks.ca.gov.

california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls
california, waterfalls, burney falls

Mossbrae Falls

california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall

Who would have known that Shasta has such a hidden gem; a magical waterfall that many people trespass and hike through dangerous train tracks to witness its beauty. It actually sounds worse than it is though honestly. Mossbrae falls is not huge but it is very lovely.

🚘 ~3hr drive from Sacramento, CA

🚘 ~4hr drive from San Francisco, CA

🚘 ~9hr drive from Los Angeles, CA

🚘 ~5.5hr drive from Portland, Oregon

Distance: 3 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Permit Required: No, but this is on PRIVATE PROPERTY, hike at your own risk.

Cost: FREE

How to get here:

  1. Park on Scarlet St., then walk through the Shasta Retreat, cross a bridge, then turn right at the railroad tracks. You will hike through the railroad tracks for about 30-40mins before reaching a bridge. This means the hike is on gravel the whole time. The falls will be just right before the bridge! There's a big rock with an arrow pointing you to the direction of the falls. You won't miss it, just don't go past the bridge!

  1. This is actually a dangerous hike as you will be walking on an ACTIVE train track. We actually saw the train on our way back, and had to stay on the side of the tracks until it passed. Some parts of the track doesn't have much room. Attempt at your own risk.

  1. This hike is also through private property, so you will be trespassing too, lol. Hike at your own risk! Although a lot of people go! They're trying to expand the trail from hedge creek to mossbrae falls but i believe it's still in the works!

  1. There is another way that get you to the falls with less time on the train tracks, but you have to cross water that is knee-thigh deep. We saw a few people came to the falls all wet from knees to toes; so they took that route.

ONCE YOU GET TO MOSSBRAE FALLS, you’ll hear the falls calling out your name (not literally)! It’s such a magical moment as you walk towards the fall. If you’re there early, you’ll have the fall to yourself. If you’re brave enough, you can go swimming in the falls’ pool; we saw a few people trying to swim but the water is very cold! It’s very serene out here.

california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls,
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls,
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls,
california, waterfalls, mossbrae falls,

TIP:

• There is an empty building before Shasta Retreat, with a huge parking lot. We parked there, so that is an option too.

• Go early! We started hiking around 7.30am and we had the falls to ourselves for a good while before people started coming. When we came back, a lot of people were coming... so definitely go early to avoid crowds.

McCloud Falls

california, waterfalls, mccloud falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall
california, waterfalls, mccloud falls, a woman in a red dress standing in front of a waterfall

McCloud Falls, located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, is a beauty on its own with three waterfalls: Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. Middle Falls is arguably the best out of the three.

Upper Falls

Upper Falls comes from a spring and flows all year long. You can’t get close but you can view it from a distance.

Middle Falls

You can also view Middle Falls from the viewing point without hiking down.

From Fowler Campground, it is 0.8 miles. From the picnic area at Lower Falls, it is another 0.25 mile. From Fowler Campground, trail has some switchbacks down, then coming back is a lot of inclines. The trail is all dirt. There were also bear sightings signs but we didn’t see any luckily!

Once you reach the view of Middle Falls, you still have to scramble through slippery rocks to get to the base of the falls. We didn’t do this as I didn’t have proper footwear. But next time!

Distance: 0.8 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (because of incline back up)

Permit Required: No

Lower Falls

Lower Falls creates an incredible swimming hole where people like to jump in often in the hot summer days. There are picnic tables in this area too.

california, waterfalls, mccloud falls
california, waterfalls, mccloud falls

Middle McCloud Falls

FULL DAY Itinerary to See the Best Waterfalls in Northern California

Start early at Mossbrae falls 7.30am-8.00am

Explore McCloud Falls around afternoon

End at Burney Falls in the late afternoon

This map shows where all the waterfalls I mentioned are. From Mossbrae Falls to Burney Falls is only around one hour. McCloud Falls is between Mossbrae Falls and Burney Falls.

Sourced from Google Maps.

Where to Stay When Visiting the Best Waterfalls in Northern California

Due to the remote locations of these waterfalls, there aren’t much in terms of hotels out there. If you want to stay closer to the city, you’ll have to drive to Redding. However, there are some options as below which is close to McCloud and Burney (as my itinerary ends at Burney Falls). If you want to drive back to Dunsmuir, there are hotels there too.

Bed & Breakfasts

Hotels / Motels: