Location: Burney, California (near Redding, California). If you have a GPS, type in McArthur Burney Falls – it will take you straight there.
Cost: $10 per vehicle plus gas and road snacks
Best time to visit: Year round! The falls look completely different based on the season. In the winter, sections freeze and it’s one of the most amazing ice-covered sights you’ll ever see. Time stands still. Really, winter magic takes place here. In the spring, the water is still icy and the water comes roaring over the falls. No swimming! In the summer months and late fall, the falls are much more mellow (as mellow as 100 million gallons of water plummeting 129 feet can be). The water is bracing, but in the summer heat, the swim is welcome. Please keep in mind, it’s a mad house in the late spring (around April) when the falls are normally at their peak. If the parking lot fills up, the rangers will turn you around and ask that you come back in half an hour until a few guests leave. The park is open sunrise to sunset year round.
Hike: 1.3 miles round trip. There are some stairs, and the trail is a little steep in spots, but it’s very well maintained and paved in most spots. It’s a great spot to take kids!
Directions: From Sacramento, take I-5 north towards Redding. Take 299 E/Lake Blvd. in Redding, then 89 towards Burney. Road signs are plentiful – Burney Falls is a big deal. You’ll see why. Drive time from Sacramento is just over three hours.
From Medford, take I-5 south towards Redding, then take 89 towards Burney. Drive time from Medford is just over two hours.
One of the things that makes Burney Falls so special is that it is a two type waterfall. Water not only pours over the top of the falls, but it also trickles from the basalt on either side of the main falls, forming a delicate, lacy frame. There is an interactive display in the on-site visitor’s center that shows how the rock is eroding, and what it might look like in the next several thousand years. There are buttons to push that change the light show – my kids were all over the button pushing.
There’s a lot to do at Burney Falls. When the water is more calm, you can fish at the falls or meander down the creek a bit. You can take a picnic lunch and find a rock to perch upon, just don’t be surprised if you end up covered in the mist if you pick the rocks right at the bottom of the falls. In the spring, you can hunt for lady bugs and dragonflies. If you drove for hours to see Burney Falls, you might want to take advantage of the area while you’re here. There are campgrounds near the falls, and a plethora of other wonders of nature within a half hour drive. McCloud has a collection of three stunning waterfalls, and near the town of Hillcrest not far from Redding is Hatchet Falls. Potem Falls is also close.