Northern California

Northern California is a land of spectacular coastal beaches, redwood forests, active volcanoes, mountain lakes, the most beautiful waterfalls in the state, and wineries!


The waterfalls in northern California are concentrated in the Mount Shasta area. Three of them are near Mt Shasta City:

Hedge Creek Falls

Hedge Creek Falls is the easiest of the three falls to get to. It is located near the town of Dunsmuir, California. There is an alcove behind the falls and you can walk behind the waterfall without getting wet. You can view the cascade from behind it. The best views of the waterfall is from its north side where it is nicely framed by trees and rocks. There is quite a bit of graffiti on the nearby rocks but it can easily be removed in post. The falls are fed by a creek and is seasonal with the best flows from December through May. Snow may make the short trail to the falls treacherous in the winter. I suggest you visit the falls from March through early May, or just after a rainfall. Climate for the nearby town of Dunsmuir can be found at

The trail to Hedge Creek Falls begins at the intersection of Dunsmuir Avenue and Siskiyou Avenue in Dunsmuir. The hike is only .17 miles long with 180 feet in elevation drop. At the waterfall the trail passes under the falls and continues downstream along Hedge Creek to the Sacramento River. It is possible to cross the Sacramento River here which is one way to access Mossbrae Falls. The Sacramento can be quite deep and dangerous when the flow is moderate to high so I only recommend it if you are experienced in river crossings and go with others.

Mossbrae Falls

Mossbrae Falls is only .3 miles from Hedge Creek Falls as the crow flies, but, as the saying goes, "you ain't no crow". The falls is one of the most striking in northern California. Unfortunately, the trail to Mossbrae Falls is now closed. The trail crosses Union Pacific property. This part of the trail is closed due to a fatality some years ago when a hiker was hit by a train on the way to the falls. You may face a fine for trespassing on Union Pacific property if you take this trail.

Here are directions to the falls if you decide to do the hike anyway, as I did:

  • Park in Dunsmuir on Dunsmuir Avenue. Parking near the old trailhead at Scarlet Way is now illegal. You will need to park on Dunsmuir Avenue north of Isgrigg St. Parking is legal there.
  • Walk south on Dunsmuir a few blocks to Scarlet Way.
  • Scarlet Way is a private road in a retreat. My understanding is that the retreat does not mind people walking on this road. Be respectful and keep a low profile while in the retreat. Do not drive your car onto the retreats property. Follow Scarlet Way till it becomes Cave Avenue and continue on Cave until it crosses the Sacramento River.
  • Cross the Sacramento River and turn right at the train tracks. Do not walk on the tracks. Walk on the gravel on the river (right) side of the tracks for 1.15 miles. You will come to another bridge over the Sacramento River. A train of nearly 100 cars passed us on the way to the falls. We heard the train when it was 200 yards away and waited for it to pass by. A typical freight train is over a mile long and requires over a mile to stop after applying its emergency brakes. Listen carefully for trains and stay off the tracks.
  • Just before the bridge over the Sacramento River turn right onto a social trail and follow it to the nearby falls.

An official and safe trail to Mossbrae Falls is currently in planning and Union Pacific has accepted engineering plans. The trail will beghin at the Hedge Creek Falls trailhead. No date for the trail opening has been set.

Mossbrae Falls is spring fed and runs all year. The falls is only 50 feet high but is several hundred feet wide. The falls faces west and gets light in mid to late afternoon. I was there on a largely cloudy day and got good puctures while the falls was in shade. I suggest you bring a moderate telephoto and focus in on some of the details in the falls.

Burney Falls

Burney Falls is perhaps the most beautiful waterfall in the state of California. It is about an hour southeast of Dunsmuir. It is spring fed with a flow of nearly 100 million gallons per day year round. The water temperature at the base of Burney is a constant 42°F. The creek below the falls is very popular with fly fishermen going for rainbow and other trout. More information about fishinhg in the park can be found at the Times-Standard.

Burney Falls is in the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. To access the falls park in the either of the first two lots you come to after the fee station and take the Rainbow Loop trail .15 miles and 150 feet down to several good viewpoints of the base of the falls. The full loop trail is 1 mile long but the best photogrpahy is right at the base. The falls faces northeast so it gets good light in the morning once the sun has risen over the ridge to its east. A mid telephoto (70-200mm) lens works well to capture the details in the falls.

McArthur Burney Falls State Park is quite popular and does fill to capacity on holidays and all weekends in the summer. I suggest you go early in the morning. Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle. Overnight camping is available by reservation, $35 per night, no hookups. Showers and a dumpstation are available. Vehicles over 32 feet long cannot be accommodated.

Google Map of Northern California

Here is an overview map showing the locations of many of the waterfalls and other attractions in northern California. Click on the map to open a larger version of the map in a new window.

Google Map of Northern California

USGS 24K Topo Maps

The following four maps cover Burney Falls, the Lake McCloud waterfalls, and Faery, Mossbrae, and Hedge Creek Falls in the Dunsmuir area. The merged map includes the City of Mt Shasta and Dunsmuir maps only.

Hedge Creek Falls near Dunsmuir, California

Hedge Creek Falls

Mossbrae Falls near Dunsmuir, California

Mossbrae Falls

Burney Falls in Northern California

Burney Falls