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A bike ride across the Sundial Bridge in Redding, Ca
Two people hiking next to a lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Kayaking and paddleboarding at Shasta Lake
Middle McCloud Falls
Kyle Sheppard
A family at Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark in Redding, CA.

Best Waterfall Hikes in Redding, CA During the Shoulder Season

By Redding CVB | 10/22/2020 | Family Friendly , Great Outdoors, State & National Parks, Things to See and Do, Top-Sights, Trails, Waterfalls

COVID Update: Shasta County and Redding are currently in the Widespread (purple) tier of California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Most businesses are open with modifications and are following state guidelines to the best of their ability. See covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy for specifics.

Every spring, snowmelt trickles off the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, flows through gorges and canyons formed by volcanic rock, and powers its way through towering forests. Where does it end up? In part, it makes up the nearly three dozen waterfalls in Northern California, all within an easy, 90-minute drive of Redding.

Most of these waterfalls can be accessed along a regional waterfall loop that comprises Redding, Burney, and Mount Shasta—but other falls can be seen in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and elsewhere around the region. While spring and summertime is naturally the busiest time of year at these powerful natural attractions, the off-season might actually be the best time to visit.

Sure, you won’t want to swim in the chilly pools at the base of these falls in May or October—but you’ll be treated to a whole new experience away from the summertime crowds. Between April and June, for instance, most of the waterfalls are at their thunderous peak, buoyed by all that snowmelt. And in September and October, the forests surrounding these falls turn vibrant shades of orange, red, and yellow.

So as you look to explore the waterfalls around Redding, here’s why you should make them an off-season priority—along with where to go and what you’ll see at each.

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1. Whiskeytown Falls


Whiskeytown Falls in early spring. @withawildermind (Instagram)

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is home to numerous waterfalls—but few are quite as dramatic as the 220-foot Whiskeytown Falls. Whiskeytown Falls has been a local secret for decades—but it was officially outed in 2004, and has since become one of the area's marquee attractions. A 3.4-mile, round-trip hike demands more than 600 feet of elevation gain before arriving at the remarkable waterfall. When you arrive at the base of Whiskeytown Falls, a set of cement stairs lead to a viewpoint that showcases the upper viewing platform.

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2. Crystal Creek Falls

20180712-California-Whiskeytown National Recreation Area-Crystal Creek Falls
The quick and easy hike to Crystal Creek Falls is accessible to everyone year-round. Don DeBold

In a sense, Crystal Creek Falls is a “man-made” waterfall in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, thanks to the Central Valley Project's Trinity River Division plan in the 1950s and 1960s. Crystal Creek was rerouted as part of the venture, creating the scenic waterfall that can be reached via a 0.3-mile paved, flat, and ADA-accessible trail today. The ease of that trail also means you won’t deal with muddy trails in winter.

This is a quick and easy hike with a chance to take a quick dip in the cool waters at the base of the falls on a hot day. So while you’ll likely jockey for room in the middle of summer, chances are good you’ll have the falls to yourself on a crisp, off-season afternoon.

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3. Faery Falls


Even if Faery Falls was the only attraction along this 1.5-mile, round-trip hike, it would warrant inclusion on the list: The 50-foot waterfall fans out as it tumbles down a canyon wall, surrounded on both sides by a towering forest.

But there's more to the hike than one might expect. Along the way to Faery Falls, hikers pass the remnants of Ney Springs Resort, a long-forgotten getaway once prized for its mineral rich waters. Today, a few stone ruins, discarded machinery, a moss-covered rock wall, and a trickling spigot are all that remains of the former resort.

The pair of powerful attractions make Faery Falls a popular summertime destination—but the hike's year-round accessibility, the waterfall's high volume in winter and spring, and the lack of shoulder-season crowds make it a winner during the chillier months, too.

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4. Middle McCloud Falls


Middle McCloud Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of California.

As the name implies, Middle McCloud Falls is the middle of three waterfalls flowing through a basalt-lined canyon. All three can be accessed from nearby parking lots, or done as part of a longer, four-mile hike, but it’s Middle McCloud Falls that you don’t want to miss.

Oddly enough, the waterfall is wider than it is tall—spanning 120 feet across and hosting just a 44-foot plume—making it one of the most beautiful falls not just on the trail but in all of California.

Its view is especially vivid in spring when winter runoff creates a kind of curtain that spans that entire 120 feet. By mid-summer and early fall, reduced water flow leads to a split in that curtain, forming a pair of distinct cascades. Early-season snowmelt makes the waterfall accessible in March and April, and colorful vine maple blankets the forest every autumn. If you're up for more waterfalls, the trail connects Lower, Middle and Upper McCloud River Falls.

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5. Mill Creek Falls


Mill Creek Falls in late summer. @neilardendavid (Instagram)

With a 75-foot cascade, Mill Creek Falls is the highest waterfall in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s not usually snow-free until mid-July—and that late-season start leaves it off the radar of most hikers and translates into an outstanding fall hike. The hike’s 800-foot ascent likely keeps some visitors away, as well—but you’re rewarded with viewpoints of a rushing waterfall that maintains a roaring flow well into September and October.

Wherever you go, keep in mind that some waterfall hikes in Northern California are currently closed due to wildfires that may last the summer and into fall. Always check the status of your preferred trail before setting out, and have a backup plan in case of sudden closures.

With so many falls to choose from, the question isn’t whether to see any, but how many you can squeeze into your next trip.

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6. Kings Creek Falls


Kings Creek Falls in Lassen Volcanic National Park. (National Park Service)

Kings Creek Falls looks like something out of a fairy tale: The 50-foot waterfall cascades down a basalt cliffside in a stepladder-like fashion, flanked on either side by ferns, shrubs, and other greenery. Even the path to the falls cuts through meadows covered in colorful wildflowers at the height of summer. The 2.3-mile, round-trip hike rewards hikers with impressive views from a platform above the falls.

And what makes the trek to Kings Creek Falls such a great off-season adventure? Lassen Volcanic National Park's short window of accessibility—largely June-October—means it sees fewer visitors than many other national parks. And even after many of those crowds have returned home by the start of fall, Kings Creek Falls remains reachable well into October—when the thunderous cascade is at its roaring peak. The greenery surrounding the waterfall turns vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow every autumn, adding to the waterfall’s charm.

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