Mossbrae Falls is straight out of a fairy tale. And unfortunately, it’s a little treacherous to get there. There’s no witch in a gingerbread house, but there are some safety points to mention here, which I will do below.
Getting here requires walking one mile on dusty railroad tracks in full sun. By the end, if you’re like me, you’re a little grimy, starting to be sticky hot, maybe looking for a tumbleweed, and more than a little freaked out by the railroad tracks. Then you see the water through the trees, and suddenly you’re in a whole new world, so verdant green it can’t possibly be the same place. You might get a headache whipping your head back and forth between the lacy falls and the dusty tracks. It’s almost like Narnia, there’s such a difference in scenery.
Water trickles at Mossbrae. It’s another quirky magic falls like Burney, in that the water is working its way through the basalt instead of pouring over the top. This means the water stays icy cold, even in the heat of summer. I get shivers from the mist sometimes, even when the ambient temperature is pushing 100. All that icy trickling makes for a rain forest-like waterfall, almost overwhelming in its lush plant life. I’ve got to confess, this last trip here I almost packed a fairy dress for my daughter to change into for pictures. If she weren’t so interested in hopping rocks, checking for salamanders and taking freezing dips, I think I might have.
Aha, so what’s the catch? It’s in getting there.
There is no easy public access to Mossbrae Falls. The trail is owned by a railroad company, who I hear was happy to share until a mishap a few years ago with a hiker who thought it better to crouch down low when faced with an oncoming train rather than hop off the trail. The legal drama and hospital bills made the railroad company much less inclined to look the other way. Please keep in mind if you attempt Mossbrae that the trail is on PRIVATE land owned by the railroad company. You will still see flocks of hikers, and sometimes parking is an issue. Be safe and be courteous if you choose to take this path.
Getting here: From Redding, take I-5 north to Dunsmuir (about one hour). If you have a GPS, type in the restaurant Yaks in Dunsmuir, California (more on this little gem later). Once you are on Dunsmuir Ave., drive past the Chevron station, past Yaks right next door, and continue on until you see Shasta Retreat on the left less than a mile down the road. It looks like this:
This is your goal for the start of your hike. DO NOT PARK HERE, do not go down that driveway, just mark the spot. This is absolutely private property, and your car will be towed. There are several cute little residences down this road, and the streets are quite narrow. They will tow you. Takeaway phrase: tow zone.
Well, now you know where to start your hike. Look for parking. When we see Shasta Retreat, we normally turn the car around and park along Dunsmuir Avenue near that entrance. Sometimes there are oodles of spots, sometimes it’s pretty full with like-minded waterfall hunters. Find a place and grab your waters. You need to pack water. It’s one mile each way in the sun, and you will be thirsty. Pack a picnic too – you can nibble your sandwich while looking for fairies.
Head down the hill through this Shasta Retreat sign. At the bottom, go right over the bridge and go right. Here are the railroad tracks. Notice there is room to walk on the right of the tracks heading out (left on the way back). BE AWARE that these are active tracks. While we have never seen a train during our hikes here, the tracks are in use. If you see a train, DO NOT DUCK. Hop off the trail and wait for it to pass. The path is narrow in spots. I hustle the whole mile, freaked out as mentioned above. Please don’t wear earbuds or anything else that is going to distract you from paying attention to the tracks. Here’s another tip: no flip flops. Wear tennies or sturdy hiking shoes. There is coarse, pointy gravel all along the tracks.
At approximately one mile, you will see what I call the trestle bridge. Is it? I don’t know. But it sounds right, and that’s how I navigate. Here’s a picture to help:
You’ll see paths to the right that lead down to the water, and voila, Mossbrae!
Now, Yaks. We live a few hours from Dunsmuir, and I would just about drive it to eat at Yaks, even if Mossbrae weren’t practically next door. Yaks makes almost everything they use from scratch. They make their own ketchup, it’s that kind of place. Ally isn’t a big meat eater, and Yaks makes the only hamburger she’s ever wanted to eat. They also have sticky cinnamon rolls that are insanely delicious.