Whiskeytown Falls

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area / near Redding / Shasta County, California, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 3
Whiskeytown Falls - this one is actually the lower waterfall as there was also an upper waterfall, too

TABLE OF CONTENTS



[Back to top]

INTRODUCTION

Whiskeytown Falls was said to have been one of the "re-discovered" waterfalls as it was not widely known to the general public for about 40 years. Apparently, it had been "lost" since 1964 when the National Park Service took over, but the rangers and employees at the time wanted to keep it a secret to the general public by leaving it off the survey maps. I distinctly recalled all the literature that was abuzz (even showing up in the Los Angeles Times when I still paid attention to the local newspaper at the time), and we had vowed we'd make a trip up here (as well as the rest of Northern California) "one of these days". Well, as you can see from the photo at the top of this page, we finally managed to make it to this attractive waterfall after all these years.

The falls pictured above happens to only be about 35ft or so, but the waterfall was said to be comprised of several more drops totalling around 220ft. Indeed, this waterfall was merely the Lower Falls, but fortunately, the cascading Upper Falls was just a few minutes hike further upstream. From what we could tell, given the steepness of the canyon and the thickness of the vegetation, we weren't able to get a sanctioned view that would have revealed the entire waterfall in one go. Instead, this was really one of those waterfalls where we had to get close to it and experience it in person as the photos really didn't do it justice.

Our hike started from the James K Carr Trailhead, which was named after a Redding resident who served under the Kennedy Administration where he was instrumental in ensuring the Whiskeytown area would be protected under the National Parks System. From the well-signed beginning (see directions below), the trail immediately descended for the first 0.3 miles as we could immediately hear the sounds of rushing water. It turned out that the sounds came from Crystal Creek, which became louder the further down the trail we went. We then crossed a bridge over the creek near the confluence of the West Fork of Mill Creek and Crystal Creek, but that was when the trail started to climb in earnest. This climb turned out to be the beginning of a fairly drawn out 700ft gain in elevation over the next half-mile or so.

During this stretch, we encountered a fork where a sign told us to keep right (the left fork turned out to not be anything noteworthy), and shortly thereafter, it seemed like we were following a dry gully or creek. Given the presence of ferns (suggesting a wetter climate here), there was enough moisture in this gully to cause mosquitos. I had speculated that perhaps this dry gully was the original trajectory of the creek at one point before the water might have found softer rocks to erode or might have been diverted from a landslide or something. Whatever the case was, this gully seemed to only have significant water if the main creek was in high flow having enough overflow to feed this drainage. Given the seemingly relentless climb, we noticed there were rest benches set up along the way though the mozzies kind of ensured that Mom and I would keep moving. After the apex of the climb, there was a bench with a view of the forested canyon though it lacked any striking features to keep us there.

Next, the trail essentially followed the West Fork of Mill Creek again, and that was when we started to see some more minor cascades as well as traverse a bridge to get onto the east side of the creek. After roughly a little less than an hour of hiking, we finally arrived at the base of the Lower Whiskeytown Falls, which had some strewn out logs acting both as a barricade to as well as a seat with a view of the plunge pool. The trail kept going beyond this lower waterfall as it went up a steep and narrow series of rock steps and at the apex of the initial climb, we started to see the rest of the Upper Whiskeytown Falls. The trail continued climbing up a more rockier and primitive section, where it could be a bit dangerous when wet due to the slippery footing (it was actually closed due to wetness during our visit). Barely a few minutes later of carefully traversing the closure area, that was when I reached a viewing deck right near the base of the Upper Whiskeytown Falls, which was really a series of cascades than a singular waterfall like the Lower Falls.

This viewing deck marked my turnaround point, and our hike back took roughly another hour for a grand total of about 2 hours (including photo breaks) to cover the entire 3.4 miles round trip. The nice thing about the return hike was that due to all the climbing on the way up, it was primarily downhill on the way back. So we had that to look forward to when we were ready to return.




[Back to top]

PHOTO JOURNAL

On the way to the James K Carr Trailhead, we caught this view of Whiskeytown Lake, which was full of boats and water skiiers as apparently this was the place to be on hot Summer weekendsOn the way to the James K Carr Trailhead, we caught this view of Whiskeytown Lake, which was full of boats and water skiiers as apparently this was the place to be on hot Summer weekends
Roughly over an hour's drive from Whiskeytown was the impressive dormant volcano and town of Mt Shasta, which was one of the imposing peaks more typically seen further north in Oregon and WashingtonRoughly over an hour's drive from Whiskeytown was the impressive dormant volcano and town of Mt Shasta, which was one of the imposing peaks more typically seen further north in Oregon and Washington
The start of the hike to Whiskeytown FallsThe start of the hike to the falls

Mom on the initial descent towards the confluence of Crystal Creek and the West Fork of Mill CreekMom on the initial descent towards the confluence of Crystal Creek and the West Fork of Mill Creek

We noticed this scaly fellow along the initial descentWe noticed this scaly fellow along the initial descent

Mom crossing the bridge near the confluence of Crystal Creek and the West Fork of Mill CreekMom crossing the bridge near the confluence of Crystal Creek and the West Fork of Mill Creek

Right after the bridge, the trail started climbingRight after the bridge, the trail started climbing

We followed the arrowed sign and kept right at this fork. The left fork turned out to not be anything significant even though it followed Mill Creek before reaching a re-vegetation areaWe followed the arrowed sign and kept right at this fork. The left fork turned out to not be anything significant even though it followed Mill Creek before reaching a re-vegetation area.

At this point, the climb started to persist pretty relentlessly as we were skirting a somewhat dry gully to our left while some rest benches were positioned along the wayAt this point, the climb started to persist pretty relentlessly as we were skirting a somewhat dry gully to our left while some rest benches were positioned along the way

The persistent climb continued onThe persistent climb continued on

The climb still continued though the crest of this hill would be the apex of this long uphill stretchThe climb still continued though the crest of this hill would be the apex of this long uphill stretch

This was probably one of the more narrower parts of the trail, which wasn't that bad at allThis was probably one of the more narrower parts of the trail, which wasn't that bad at all

Mom continuing along the trail as it started to skirt Mill Creek againMom continuing along the trail as it started to skirt Mill Creek again

Finally arriving at the base of the Lower Whiskeytown FallsFinally arriving at the base of the Lower Whiskeytown Falls

Mom checking out the Lower Whiskeytown FallsMom checking out the Lower Whiskeytown Falls

The trail continued to climb alongside the Lower Whiskeytown FallsThe trail continued to climb alongside the Lower Falls

Starting to glimpse the Upper Whiskeytown Falls as we continued further up the trailStarting to glimpse the Upper Whiskeytown Falls as we continued further up the trail

This was the view of the Upper Whiskeytown Falls from the end of the official trailThis was the view of the Upper Falls from the end of the official trail

Looking downstream from the Upper Whiskeytown FallsLooking downstream from the Upper Falls

Making the steep downhill between the Upper and Lower FallsMaking the steep downhill between the Upper and Lower Falls

All that extensive uphill hiking meant the return hike was mostly downhill nowAll that extensive uphill hiking meant the return hike was mostly downhill now

We were making such good progress on the return hike that we caught up to some folks who had left earlier than us on this popular trailWe were making such good progress on the return hike that we caught up to some folks who had left earlier than us on this popular trail

Finally making it back up to the James K Carr TrailheadFinally making it back up to the James K Carr Trailhead


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Downstream to upstream sweep examining the Lower Whiskeytown Falls


Downstream to upstream sweep of the Upper Whiskeytown Falls


[Back to top]

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We'll pick up the driving directions from the city of Redding (even though we were actually staying in the town of Red Bluff some 30 miles further to the south along the I-5). Redding seemed to be a pretty central location for not only the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (including several waterfalls like Whiskeytown Falls, Boulder Creek Falls, Brandy Creek Falls, and Crystal Creek Falls, among others), but it was also reasonably close to other attractions like Lassen Volcanic National Park as well as Mt Shasta.

From the I-5, we followed signs for Whiskeytown, which had us take a ramp to junction with the Hwy 44 west, which also happened to coincide with Hwy 299. After a brief moment of driving on one-way local streets (Shasta Street then turning right onto Pine Street then turning left onto Eureka Way), the Hwy 299 would resume as it made its way west out of Redding.

After nearly 7.5 miles or so from town, there was a signposted turnoff to the left for the Whiskeytown Lake Visitor Center. This was supposed to be where you buy a $5 pass that's good for 7 days as the general area is administered by the National Park Service (so National Parks passes should be honored here). After another 8 miles or so from the visitor center (nearly 16 miles west of Redding), we then turned left onto Crystal Creek Road. We then followed this road for the next 3.7 miles to the well-signed James K Carr Trailhead. There were about a half-dozen or so marked parking spaces near the kiosk and restroom, but there were also some space on the shoulders of Crystal Creek Road for additional parking.

Overall, this drive between Redding and the trailhead would take roughly 35 minutes (or 65 minutes from Red Bluff). Signs here warned that parked vehicles must display a valid pass or risk a fine of $125. Although there was a self-help kiosk for payment envelopes, they ran out during our visit so your best bet would be to buy the pass at the Whiskeytown Lake Visitor Center along Hwy 299.

To give you an idea of the geographical context, Redding was 217 miles (over 3 hours drive) north of San Francisco, 162 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) north of Sacramento, 150 miles (2.5 hours drive) south of Medford, Oregon, and 546 miles (over 7.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.




[Back to top]

ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS




[Back to top]

RELATED PAGES



Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.



[Back to top]

[Go to the Northern California Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the California Page]

[Return from Whiskeytown Falls to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]