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Burney, California, United States

Burney Falls and the Burney Creek Headwaters Trail

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial SP

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Difficulty: Medio
Length: 3.2 miles / 5.2 km
Duration: 1-3 ore
Accessibile alle Famiglie • Accessibile ai Cani
Anteprima: A fairly simple hike on well developed trails. The steeper portions in areas heavily traveled tend to be paved, with steps and low rock walls where needed. This loop walk provides plenty of views of both the falls and Burney Creek.

Up towards the North Eastern corner of California midway between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen is a spot Theodore Roosevelt once proclaimed as "the eighth wonder of the world." It's Burney Falls, a truly magnificent 129 foot waterfall a short run upstream from Lake Britton. This is one of the California State Parks that's a bit more remote but that's not a problem. It's a long but simple drive out of Redding through some great scenic country, ending just outside the small lumber town of Burney.

The surrounding park is within the Cascade Range and the sparsely populated Modoc Plateau region. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial SP contains 910 acres of forest and five miles of stream side and lake shoreline on Lake Britton.

One of the interesting facets of the landscape is that volcanic action was the dominant force shaping this part of California. Burney Creek just doesn't appear to support the water needed to supply the falls, rather, most of the flow percolates through the porous lava rock in subterranean rivers. One of these underground aquifers feeds both Burney Creek and exits the surrounding cliffs into Burney Falls itself. While the falls flow continuously year round, Burney creek is sometimes dry half a mile upstream.

The Park flora also illustrates the volcanic origins of the region. Understory bushes are muted and sparse in this region compared to other areas. One of the primary reasons is that the soil is porous and the water quickly escapes below the shallow roots of the vegetation that would normally grow in this region.

Several Native American groups, particularly the Ilmawi Band of the Pit River Tribe, had villages in the region around the present-day park. They were known to use the technique of digging deep pits in order to trap big game animals. The nineteenth-century explorers and local settlers referred to these people as Pit River Indians in reference to this hunting technique. The falls were considered, and still are, both a deep cultural and spiritual landmark.

This region in the late 19th Century became economically important with the introduction of logging which continues to this day. In the early 20th Century, the Pit River's damming for hydo-electric generation and particularly the Pit River #3 Dam resulted in Lake Britton. A further planned dam nearly obliterated Burney Falls. Fortunately the landowner, Frank McArthur donated the falls in 1922 along with the surrounding land to the State Park system. The park honors McArthur's pioneer parents, John and Catherine McArthur.

The initial steep journey down to the falls base can get fairly crowded but as most park visitors aren't hikers, traffic thins to a trickle as one crosses the canyon for the rest of the trip. It's a good idea to bring at least a sweatshirt town to the fall's base, the spray cools the canyon considerably, you'll want a daypack as well to stash the clothing and carry both water, a snack, and insect repellant.

Heading up the opposite side of the canyon can be a long trudge for youngsters. Once at the top of the falls, the Burney Falls Loop Trail levels out.

HINT: The Fisherman's Bridge provides a major shortcut back to the Visitor Center or better yet, the General Store for that soft-serve ice cream bribe you gave the kids.

Upper Burney Creek's trail isn't difficult but provides numerous short rises and falls in the trail and broken shade. There's also plenty of easy access points to the creek for fishing.

Consigli: Location-Directions:
The park is northeast of Redding, six miles north of Highway 299 on Highway 89 near Burney.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
24898 Hwy. 89
Burney, CA 96013


Operating Hours:
Call the park.

Seasons/Climate/Recommended Clothing:
Summer is hot; spring and fall are warm during the day and cold at night; winter is cold. Layered clothing is advised.

There are five miles of hiking trails winding through the park's evergreen forests. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the park.

Additional Activities: Boating, fishing, swimming, equestrian, and biking.

The park has 128 family sites (no hookups) and seven primitive sites. Restrooms, showers, and a well stocked General Store (seasonal) are on site.

Additional picnic areas with BBQ's, a boat ramp and dock, small boat rentals, and restroom down at the beach area.

Max Camper Length: 32 Feet
Max Trailer Length: 32 Feet

Online Campsite Reservations are available and highly recommended.

Dogs and Pets:
DOGS/PETS must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and under control at all times. They are not permitted in buildings, on trails (except for the Pioneer Cemetery Trail) or on the beach.

Wi-Fi Service:
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park offers AT&T Wi-Fi Service (fee required) within a 150 feet of the Snack Bar/Visitor Center.

Punti di Interesse


Visitor's Center


General Store

Ample paved parking, restrooms, well stocked with the basics a large campground could need. Besides the general souvenirs, the store has fishing gear and a busy snack counter.

The Park has about 104 campsites and 24 cabins available. At a separate site about 1 mile down Lake Road at Lake Britton is a beach and a large Day Use picnic area, docks, and boat ramp. Check the Park's web site for links to boat rental rates, launch and docking fees.

Trail Head

We'll follow a portion of the "Falls Loop Trail", a segment of the "Pacific Crest Trail", and the Upper Burney Creek "Headwaters Trail" to form a convenient loop and provide a great overview of Burney Falls. The trail head is located across the road from the Visitor's Center.

This upper loop trail was recommended to me by the Park's Rangers who really like it for a couple reasons. It's definitely the road less traveled, and it provides a lot of scenic variability!

A shortcut can be taken just a short way upstream of the falls at the "Fisherman's Bridge" crossing between Way-Points 18 and 19...cutting off both the "Pacific Crest Trail" and "Headwaters Trail" segments. This could be handy if one's legs are giving out or should the kids be on the young side. I'd definitely consider it if pushing a stroller as there will be a few rocky spots on the "Headwaters Trail".

Three trails start here:
Burney Falls Overlook- about 75 feet from here.
Base of Falls- 0.3 mile
Falls Loop 1.2 mile trail.

Follow the Falls Loop Trail. We'll do a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, and return on the Headwaters Trail.

Informational and Interpretive Signage

Park history, established in 1922 as a State Park. Information on surrounding structures, a park map, Native Americans, wildlife, and the falls.

Steps down to Burney Falls view overlook

Follow the stone steps down to a view overlook perched atop the cliffs overlooking Burney Falls. Additionally, there's the commemorative dedication plaque and statistics on the falls.

Height of Falls: 129 Feet.
Depth of Pool: 22 Feet.
Water Temperature: 42-48 degrees.
Daily Flow: 1 Million Gallons.

Interpretive signage describes the geology of the falls and region.

Follow the path along the cliff top to the right (downstream direction).


Trail Down

The path on this side of the canyon is both paved, set with stone stairs, rock walls and iron rails to ease the decent to the pools at the base of Burney Falls.

Just about anyone can handle the trail unless there's health issues. The trail gets busy with bus tours.


A shady stone benched switchback with interpretive signage.

"More Than Meets the Eye": Mosses, Lichens, and the Mahala Matt vegetation; Turtles, Mountain Lions, Bats, and Badgers! All living locally.

"A Cool Place to Grow...A Cool Place to Live": Black and White Oaks, Thimbleberry, and Douglas Fir.

Trail Leg Down into the Canyon

As the trail drops further into the canyon there will be a sharp temperature drop and increase in moisture! At this point the falls have been blocked from view by the surrounding forest until about midway down the trail leg.

The background sound of the falls gradually rises as we approach the next switchback.

Switchback Next to the Falls.

"Roaring Falls and Trickling Streams": The underground Aquifer feeding Burney Creek and the Falls from Burney Mountain 15 miles away via underground river channels and a taste of the volcanic geology creating the aquifer.

"A Home Behind the Falls": Black Swifts nest behind the falls during the summer building them from the lichens and mosses. These birds leave by Fall, before the winter freezes set in. This area is one of the most important nesting areas for the Swifts in the Western United States.

The Pool and Traveling Downstream.

Burney's Pool has been a destination for thousands of years. The Illmawi, the local Pit River tribe continues it's traditions here.

The Park recommends that visitors stay out of the water due to the turbulent currents, 22 foot depth, and 48 degree water! If one doesn't mind the cold water, it does look like a great swim.

Head downstream along the creek, there's a number of locations anglers enjoy the trout fishing. An unusual feature is the basalt cobble slope on this side of Burney Creek. This slope is the remains of the cap layer of basaltic rocks that were undermined as the falls slowly cut the channel upstream.

Burney Creek Fishing

"Burney Creek Fishing": Teaming with aquatic life, Lower Burney Creek hosts Rainbow Trout, Sculpin, freshwater clams, mussels, otters, and insects.

The Rainbow Trout's native, the brown and brook trout are introduced and self sustaining.

Fishing Season: Last Saturday in April through September 15.

Interpretive Signage: Vegitation

"Bordering Burney Creek": Identifying the local vegitation. Species covered here include: Vine Maple, Sierra Gooseberry, Flowering Currant, and White Alder.

Most of these plants within this region grow only in the cool moist environment presented withing Lower Burney Creek Canyon.

Rainbow Footbridge Crossing

Cross Burney Creek at Rainbow Footbridge and Junction. The trail will start a climb back toward Burney Falls and avoid much of the steep return climb at the hike's start. The rest of the hike is on unpaved trails.

There will be points where the trail does get moderately steep but it will be in short segments. The trail provides some great views up and down Lower Burney Creek but only a few glimpses of the falls.

Trail Junction: PSEA Trail

Shortly after crossing the footbridge a junction will be reached. Continue up the Falls Loop Trail.

The Falls Trail winds, does a few switchbacks, gets narrow along some steep slopes, and generally runs back up-canyon toward the top of Burney Falls. Plenty of views "down" into the canyon. It might be a good idea in places to stop first, then enjoy the view!

NOTE: The PSEA Trail heads downstream to a private company campground owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. There appears to be no restrictions regarding the PSEA Trail.


Base of switchback

Base of a switchback and Burney Falls overlook. This will be the last view of the falls. Expect a short steep climb to the summit.

For adults, it's not bad at all...unless they have small children who will be getting pretty tired at this point. My sympathies to the couple with the youngsters.

Summit and top of climb

A last bit of climb out of the canyon. The top of Burney Falls is hidden from view behind brush but there's a nice view upstream and across the canyon to the trails below at the pool's base.

I'll mention it a couple times. The Park has closed off the access to the top of Burney Falls. The geology is unstable, unsafe. The fencing is there for a reason!

The staff does monitor the area and do respond when people are spotted encroaching the top of the falls.

Heading upstream

The trail levels out as it heads upstream toward Fisherman's Bridge.

Junction Fisherman's Bridge and Pacific Crest Trail

Trail Junction.

Fisherman's Bridge provides both creek access It also represents a significant shortcut back to the starting point.

To continue upstream, head up the hill a short way to the Pacific Crest Trail. The surrounding country levels out for what will be essentially a flat walk upstream.

Pacific Crest Trail

This next trail segment follows a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail along a bench over Burney Creek. The creek's out of sight and hearing along most of this forested path...but never far away.

The trail's grade is essentially flat and lightly traveled. The trail's open to equestrian use and surprisingly, I didn't notice any evidence of mountain bikes.

Fork in the trail

The trail simply splits and rejoins, both paths appear equally traveled.

Boundary Marker

A boundary Marker marking a corner common to McArthur-Burney and the adjoining Lassen National Forest. Jump southwest and you can visit a second park today.

Lat: 41.00807 North
Lon: 121.65047 West
Elev: 3004.3

Taken on a Garmin Oregon 550t.

Fork in the trail

The trail simply splits and rejoins, both paths appear equally traveled.

Pacific Crest Trail continues

A meander through Ponderosa Pine and Douglass Fir forest passing the periodic opening and small meadow. An easy walk.

Headwaters Horse Camp

An environmental horse accessible campground lies along the trail at this point that's also easily accessible from Clark Creek Road.

The grounds are outfitted with picnic benches, food lockers, potable water, corrals, and restrooms. Just off-site is a parking lot suitable for trailers. The grounds themselves are gently shaded and provide ready trail access.

Meadow to the Pacific Crest Footbridge

The trail continues past the horse camp in a broad curve skirting a meadow and open forest area, generally on a flat grade. Just after the meadow, the trail cuts down to the Pacific Crest Footbridge crossing Burney Creek not far from the Park's southerly point.


Upper Burney Creek and Junction

Easy water access all along the upper creek! The comparatively still and deeper pools contrast the faster running creek downstream.

Take the Headwaters Trail paralleling Burney Creek just north of the bridge.

The Pacific Crest Trail continues north, crossing HWY 89.


Headwaters Trail

The Headwaters Trail has several personalities. Upstream, it snakes it's way through short up and down grades in a lightly forested rocky stretch as it follows Burney Creek.

There's periodic paths down to what appears to be favored fishing holes.

Headwaters Pool

Burney Creek forms a slow moving pool.

Upper Burney Creek

A winding and variable grade back downstream toward the Falls. Alternately forested and open with plenty of creek access points.

Interpretive Signage: Burney Creek food chain.

Discussion on the aquatic food chain in Burney Creek.

Stone Pump House

The old Pump House and water intake servicing the older cabins and staff housing.

Interpretive Signage: "At the Creekside". Flora and insect life along the creek.

Burney Creek Access

An ADA accessible platform overlooks Burney Creek adjacent to the pump house. Just downstream are the old water intake and a small beachhead.


Access (ADA) down to the Pump House and creek.


Side trails down to the creek.

Trail Head

Park Service Road Trail Head to the Headwaters Trail. A small parking area and turnout.

Trail Access to Fisherman's Bridge

Service Road gravel parking area and alternate trail heads to Fisherman's Bridge and Headwaters Trail.

Fisherman's Bridge Trail Head

At the same parking area is the trail down to Fisherman's Bridge.

Incense Cedar

An example of Incense Cedar and interpretive signage.

A member of the Cyprus family of trees, it has scaled, not needle leaves.

The 3rd most common tree species in the park. Commercially, not as valued as the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. It's useful in fencing, roofing, pencils, and similar applications. The local Indians found the soft wood useful for canoes and planking.

Side Trail

A side trail down to Burney Creek.

Interpretive signage on the Local Geology and how such a small creek can pump 1 million gallons a day over Burney Falls.

Ponderosa Pine

Interpretive signage and example trees.

The Ponderosa Pine grows in areas with dry summers and is well adapted to frequent fires.

Look for "Puzzle Bark", triplet needles, and prickley cones.


Burney Falls Overlook

The trail out to the top of the falls from here has been closed and rerouted for quite some time. Like across the creek, the underlying ground is unstable.


A path back to the starting point.

Interpretive: Trees Tell Tales

Interpretive signage: Trees Tell Tales".

A Ponderosa Pine cross section displaying the tree rings and it's growth during historical events.


Return to Trail Head

End of walk with plenty of time to head down to Lake Britton or hike another trail such as: The Pioneer Cemetery and Cemetery Cove, (Lower) Burney Creek Trail, or the Rim Trail.
Fotografie di questa Guida scattate da: Craig_H

Burney Falls and the Burney Creek Headwaters Trail Trail Map

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