Hatchet Creek Falls (also known as Lions Slide Falls) was one of those waterfalls that we really had to earn with a few scrapes along with bumps and bruises thanks to a fairly uncomfortable scramble to reach it. Maybe it was for that reason that it also might be one of the more alluring swimming holes for as you can see in the photo above, the waterfall itself was fairly attractive, but it was really the chance at a little seclusion in a calm pool to cool off from the Summer heat that might make one argue that the slight bit of inconvenience was worth it. In fact, Mom and I noticed quite a few old clothes hanging on some trees as well as some bottle caps strewn about here and there that hinted to us that it might have been a frequented spot by some locals in the know. Nevertheless, this was the second waterfall stop that we made from Redding to Burney Falls so the relative obscurity of this falls might have also been a blessing in disguise.
We started off the scramble from a large pullout next to a bridge at the so-called Big Bend (see directions below). At the far end of the pullout, we noticed that there were two entrances - one left and one right. We learned the hard way that we should take the path on the right (even though there was a small stream running right on the trail creating some muddy spots). That was because the left path went further downstream and any trails leading upstream were actually false trails from people who probably made the same mistake that we did. Those false trails quickly because dicey scrambles along Hatchet Creek that were overgrown and thus making the "trail" ill-defined. We were fortunate to follow some very faint and overgrown trail linking the scramble with the trail we should have taken in the first place and that was how we were able to proceed.
Anyways, assuming we took the correct path in the first place, just follow the trail as it led towards Hatchet Creek from higher ground. There was a fallen log that we had to climb over to continue the trail, but then just a few minutes later, we reached more steeper terrain as well as another larger fallen tree that we had to duck under to continue. The trail here was pretty much a steep scramble alongside the other side of the fallen tree before we picked up the faint trail ultimately leading us down to the wide plunge pool at the base of Hatchet Creek Falls. In order to get right in front of the falls, there were a lot of rocks in the stream that we were able to scramble upon though our direct view of the falls was against the mid-morning sun.
Still, we felt that this place was really more about the swimming and seclusion than it was about the aesthetics of the waterfall. And since we were here at the start of Summer where much of California was undergoing a heat wave, this was the perfect place to relax and chill out after the fairly rough scrambling we had to go through to get here. Overall, we had spent about 40 minutes away from the car though probably 30 minutes of that time was on the quarter-mile or less scramble. And while the short distance may make the excursion seem very easy, its down-and-dirty nature (especially since I earned a few cuts on my shins and a fairly nasty gash on my shoulder from a protruding tree branch) forced us to bump up the difficulty score.
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). In addition to the many waterfalls in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, Redding seemed to be a pretty central location the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Mt Shasta.
So from the I-5 north in the town of Redding, we then took the Hwy 299 exit heading east. From there, we drove for about 34 miles (passing through the towns of Round Mountain and Montgomery Creek) towards a signed turnoff for Big Bend Rd on our left. Big Bend Road was roughly 4.5 miles or so past the turnoff for Fenders Ferry Road (which led to Potem Falls. Once we turned left onto Big Bend Road, we then followed this road for the next 0.8 miles to a fairly large pullout on the right side of the road just before the road curved towards the bridge over Hatchet Creek. This pullout was where we stopped the car and started the scramble.
For some additional 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.
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