Feather Falls, Oroville

Cascading water plummeting 410 feet into a granite canyon makes a really impressive roar, not to mention the mist you can feel all the way up at the viewing platform.  Feather Falls is one of the most awe-inspiring waterfalls in California.

My children remember it as “The Ladybug Hike”.  The waterfall is cool and all, but the ladybugs?!  Epic.

The hike to Feather Falls is about nine miles round trip.  The trail is well marked and well maintained, and not overly steep for the most part (there’s a little bit before you reach the viewing platform that is in full sun and you can feel the climb, but otherwise it’s mellow, I promise).

If you go in the springtime, not only will the waterfall have quite impressive volume from all the rain and snow melt, but you will find ladybugs clinging to every available surface by the creek.

While we’re marching along and I’m listening to the kids chatter and trying to keep Ally from tripping on the exposed roots (We both fall a lot.  It’s part of our charm.), I glanced over and thought, huh, I’ve never seen fungus like that.  I stepped closer and realized it was actually hundreds of these little guys swarming a downed log.   And the ferns.  And sticks.

Pretty much any available surface had a cluster of brilliant red and orange spotted beetles.  There’s actually a signpost at the creek that talks about this yearly occurrence, and that you can only find the swarms for a few months out of the year.

Hence, The Ladybug Hike, which also includes a pretty amazing waterfall.

Directions: From Sacramento or Redding, head for Oroville, California.  It’s about an hour and a half drive from either city.  Take Hwy. 162 up the hill (east for all you who navigate with actual directions) and drive for about 6.7 miles.  Turn right on Forbestown Rd. and take that for about 6.3 miles.  Here you will turn left on Lumpkin, and drive for just over 11 miles.  You will see signage for Feather Falls on Lumpkin.  Turn left at the sign, and drive 1.5 miles to the parking area.

There are two trails here, one to the left and one to the right.  Both go to Feather Falls.  My trick – take the left (lower) trail on the way out and the other (upper) trail on the way back.  This way you get more downhill trekking.  And you can see the ladybugs as they’re just getting moving about their day.  The creek with all the ladybugs is on the lower trail.

You may see hikers actually ABOVE Feather Falls from the viewing platform.  If you’re feeling very adventurous and promise to be exceedingly careful, I’ll tell you how to get up there.  BE CAREFUL.  People who are not careful can go over the falls, and it’s a 410 foot drop.  You will die.

As you approach the viewing platform, there will be a rock wall along your right-hand side.  The viewing platform goes down and on your left, and if you look close, there is a trail continuing upwards along that wall.  It turns to a dirt and granite path, but it’s pretty clear going.  Take that into the manzanita and scrub brush.  There are some brambles here, so watch your arms.  There are several outlets along your left here after you’ve been walking for about a quarter to half mile.  You’ll see breaks in the manzanita from hikers pushing their way in.  Be cautious here, check out which path you want, and always be aware of where the river and the drop-offs are.

The path through the manzanita leads to exposed granite and a place for a picnic.   If you follow the water (with your eyes please, not your feet), you’ll see a fenced in cage on the left, where the truly daring can perch above Feather Falls. Here’s the tricksy part:  To get to the cage, you have to CROSS THE WATER.  It’s insanely slippery and covered in moss.  One slip, and you will not be coming back from your hike.  My kids desperately wanted in that cage, and I forbid it.  My husband got into the cage, and I was giving him my head-shaking-side-eye the whole time.   I watched a pregnant woman get in, and we had to leave, I couldn’t even watch.  It’s that nerve-wracking.  A hiker went over just this year.  If there’s rope and a harness, I’d feel safer.  If the cage was on dry ground and you could follow the fenced part safely the whole way, I’d feel safer.  I did not feel at all okay with the current situation with the cage.  But people get in there every year.  I’m happy with my picnic listening to the water away from the edge personally.


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