Burney Falls

Burney / MacArthur-Burney Memorial State Park, California, USA

About Burney Falls


Hiking Distance: < 1 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-06-20
Date last visited: 2017-07-27

Waterfall Latitude: 41.01191
Waterfall Longitude: -121.65198

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Burney Falls was hands down the most spectacular waterfall we encountered on our trips to the far north of California.

Not only did this waterfall have fairly impressive dimensions at 132ft in height along with a width that appeared to be wider than its height, but it also had a deep sapphire blue aquamarine plunge pool.

Burney_Falls_087_06202016 - Burney Falls
Burney Falls

Moreover, it had a rather unique characteristic where most of its 100 million gallons of flow came out from the middle of the cliff.

The rest of the overflow of Burney Creek spilling over the top.

Yep, it was one of those rare waterfalls where you can have a waterfall fall on top of another waterfall!

Apparently, this place was so well-loved that even Teddy Roosevelt referred to it as the Eight Wonder of the World.

Burney_Falls_202_06202016 - Closer look across Burney Falls and the springs emerging from behind its main double-barreled drop
Closer look across Burney Falls and the springs emerging from behind its main double-barreled drop

We even met a local back at the McCloud Falls who scoffed at places like Mossbrae Falls due to the presence of Burney Falls.

So with all the hype that went into this place, we knew that generally coming in with high expectations was a recipe for disappointment.

However, Burney Falls certainly met those lofty expectations, and it even earned a spot on our Top 10 Best California Waterfalls List as well as the even more exclusive Top 10 Best Waterfalls in the USA List.

Experiencing Burney Falls

Our visit to Burney Falls consisted of more gawking and less walking.

Burney_Falls_289_06202016 - Looking across a big picnic area by the nearest parking lot for the Burney Falls
Looking across a big picnic area by the nearest parking lot for the Burney Falls

From the day use parking lot (see directions below), it was a mere 150 yards to reach the first overlook of Burney Falls.

Indeed, this first glimpse of the falls was between an opening in the trees.

It merely teased us into getting down to the bottom after having our fill of the limited top down view.

Backtracking then descending along the paved ramp over two switchbacks (so it was wheelchair-accessible), the ramp offered us the ability to get frontal views of the impressively wide falls.

Burney_Falls_007_06202016 - Partial view of Burney Falls from the first overlook, which was just 150 yards from the parking lot
Partial view of Burney Falls from the first overlook, which was just 150 yards from the parking lot

At the second switchback, we were able to get an angled view across Burney Falls.

This allowed us to examine more closely how a large portion of the wall of water filling out its breadth came from springs percolating out from the middle 2/3rds of the cliff.

Given that most of Burney Creek seeped into underground aquifers which then re-emerged as the falls coming out of springs, this meant that it was a rare year-round waterfall.

Apparently, it also had a relatively constant temperature thanks to the regulation properties of the aquifers, which were shielded from the elements.

Burney_Falls_027_06202016 - Mom walking on the wheelchair-accessible ramp trail leading us closer to the bottom of Burney Falls
Mom walking on the wheelchair-accessible ramp trail leading us closer to the bottom of Burney Falls

We’ve heard that Burney Creek at the surface could slow to a trickle or go dry, but it was the springs that would keep the rest of the waterfall going even as we got deeper into the hotter and drier months of Summer.

As we continued walking down the ramp past the second switchback, we had opportunities to scramble onto the boulder field separating the walkway from the edge of the sapphire blue aquamarine plunge pool.

This was where we managed to get our most direct views of Burney Falls, and we weren’t alone in our thinking as dozens of other people took advantage of the access as well.

Towards the bottom of the ramp, there was a viewing area with a bit of a more angled and non-optimal view back at Burney Falls.

Burney_Falls_030_06202016 - Mom approaching the last switchback with Burney Falls and its plunge pool in context
Mom approaching the last switchback with Burney Falls and its plunge pool in context

From this vantage point, we were able to get a closer look at some more springs continuing to feed Burney Creek a little further downstream from the wall of water that was Burney Falls.

Anyways, for all intents and purposes, this was our turnaround point as we preferred the more frontal views of the falls.

Contemplating at Burney Falls

Mom and I chilled out at the base of the falls and a little higher up the ramp as well for a pretty solid hour or so.

The spray from Burney Falls provided us some relief from the hot Summer afternoon.

Burney_Falls_17_026_07272017 - Tahia enjoying Burney Falls in the late afternoon on a scorching hot Summer day in late July 2017
Tahia enjoying Burney Falls in the late afternoon on a scorching hot Summer day in late July 2017

It really reminded us of the restorative powers of Mother Nature when left to its own devices.

Mom and I were also patiently waiting for the sun to re-position itself where we were hoping that the entire width of the falls would be in light.

However, it seemed like its trajectory was such that there was always some part of the falls in shadow since the sun was essentially positioned behind the brink of Burney Falls.

And while we were contemplating this falls, we were reaching back into our memories to see if there was another waterfall like this.

Shiraito_057_05262009 - The percolating springs behind Burney Falls kind of reminded me of the Shiraito Waterfall and its percolating springs on the western slopes of Mt Fuji in Japan
The percolating springs behind Burney Falls kind of reminded me of the Shiraito Waterfall and its percolating springs on the western slopes of Mt Fuji in Japan

The closest ones that I could think of were the Shiraito Waterfall on the slopes of Mt Fuji in Japan or the Hraunfossar in Iceland.

Possibilities of extending our visit at Burney Falls

The trail to the bottom of Burney Falls actually kept going beyond its lowest viewpoint though it became a bit more primitive.

While it would certainly mean a more secluded and quieter experience to keep going, we observed that the rest of the four-mile loop trail wouldn’t provide any more different or fulfilling views of Burney Falls.

It would merely be to just get away and to immerse oneself even deeper into the Nature on display here.

Burney_Falls_280_06202016 - Looking up at some kind of eagle's nest perched right on top of a tree missing its top near Burney Falls
Looking up at some kind of eagle’s nest perched right on top of a tree missing its top near Burney Falls

When we finally had our fill of Burney Falls and walked back up to the ramp, we then did a little exploring further upstream of the falls.

Even though we weren’t able to get close to the waterfalls and experience it from its brink, some people pointed out to us that there was an eagle’s nest perched atop a leaning tree right by the falls.

So that little surprise kept us occupied for a bit longer as we watched a young eagle tentatively flapping its wings as it still hadn’t learned how to fly yet.

Indeed, there just seemed to be a magical air about the Nature here during our visits.

Burney_Falls_291_06202016 - Looking towards cabins and other infrastructure around Burney Falls built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Looking towards cabins and other infrastructure around Burney Falls built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

As a result, we spent almost two hours here but the walking for just the complete falls experience was merely a mile or less round trip (maybe taking 15-20 minutes tops thanks to the wheelchair-accessibility of the trail).

Authorities

Burney Falls resides in the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park near Burney in Shasta County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Burney_Falls_17_001_07272017 - Julie and Tahia headed for a late afternoon visit to Burney Falls in late July 2017
Burney_Falls_17_005_07272017 - Looking down at Burney Falls from the first overlook near the parking lot
Burney_Falls_17_009_07272017 - Julie and Tahia checking out some of the interpretive signs along the walk leading down to the bottom of Burney Falls
Burney_Falls_17_011_07272017 - Julie and Tahia descending the wheelchair-friendly ramp heading down to the base of Burney Falls
Burney_Falls_17_015_07272017 - Julie and Tahia approaching the impressive Burney Falls with long late afternoon shadows
Burney_Falls_17_019_07272017 - Julie and Tahia going all the way to the last lookout near the base of Burney Falls
Burney_Falls_17_023_07272017 - Late afternoon look at the impressive Burney Falls as seen from right across its plunge pool
Burney_Falls_17_049_07272017 - My attempt at a long exposure photo of the Burney Falls as I tried to take advantage of the long shadows
Burney_Falls_17_055_07272017 - Context of the Burney Falls with people still hanging around its plunge pool despite the afternoon sun rapidly fading
Burney_Falls_17_069_07272017 - Broad look across the width of Burney Falls as the impressive springs seeping out of the cliffs beneath the cliff holding up the main drops of the waterfall
Burney_Falls_004_06202016 - The remaining photos in this photo gallery came from my first visit to Burney Falls in June 2016. This was the view of Burney Falls from the first overlook at midday
Burney_Falls_016_06202016 - Long exposure shot of our first glimpse of Burney Falls that came from an overlook just 150 yards away from the parking lot affording us this top down view
Burney_Falls_020_06202016 - Mom walking the mostly paved ramp leading us down towards the base of Burney Falls
Burney_Falls_037_06202016 - Slightly angled look at Burney Falls and its colorful aquamarine plunge pool in the bright midday sun
Burney_Falls_041_06202016 - Looking across the plunge pool of Burney Falls right at its entire front as we continued descending to the lowermost lookout
Burney_Falls_067_06202016 - Direct look across the plunge pool towards Burney Falls with some people at the edges of the plunge pool for a sense of scale
Burney_Falls_089_06202016 - Making our way back up the ramps to regain the Burney Falls parking lot up above
Burney_Falls_093_06202016 - Portrait look across the plunge pool of Burney Falls with some people by its shores for a sense of scale
Burney_Falls_101_06202016 - Another angled look at the Burney Falls while looking more closely at the springs behind it
Burney_Falls_119_06202016 - Long exposure look at the Burney Falls and its percolating springs from near the switchback
Burney_Falls_143_06202016 - Looking right across Burney Falls from the second switchback while paying more attention to the underlying waterfalls coming out from the middle of the cliffs
Burney_Falls_149_06202016 - Portrait look at the main pair of drops of Burney Falls from the second switchback
Burney_Falls_170_06202016 - Another portrait view of Burney Falls and its deep aquamarine plunge pool in context
Burney_Falls_174_06202016 - Looking down at the attractive aquamarine plunge pool with people right across from the Burney Falls' base
Burney_Falls_176_06202016 - Another look across Burney Falls towards its far end from the second switchback
Burney_Falls_224_06202016 - Looking down at the dozens of people enjoying both the spray from Burney Falls as well as the plunge pool's fringes
Burney_Falls_251_06202016 - Back up at the overlook where we checked out Burney Falls one last time before heading back to the c ar
Burney_Falls_294_06202016 - Closer look at the front of a restored cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. at the Burney Falls picnic and parking area

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We’ll pick up the driving directions from the city of Redding since it seemed to be the hub for activities concerning Mt Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Whiskeytown.

We actually stayed at Red Bluff, which was an additional 30 miles or 30 minutes further to the south along the I-5 of Redding.

We’ll also describe the directions from the town of Mt Shasta.

Driving from Redding to Burney Falls

Taking the I-5 north through Redding, we then exited the interstate and took the Hwy 299 east.

We followed Hwy 299 for roughly 55 miles through the town of Burney (which appeared to be a major pulp mill and logging town about 50 miles northeast of Redding).

Then, we turned left onto the Scenic Highway 89.

After around 5 miles north along Hwy 89, we turned left into the well-signed entrance area for the MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.

At the entrance kiosk, we paid $7 (since Mom was considered a senior so she got the $1 off the normal day use fee of $8 during our June 2016 visit).

Burney_Falls_002_06202016 - The busy day use parking area for the falls
The busy day use parking area for the falls

Then, we promptly parked the car at the day use parking lot for the falls shortly thereafter to our left.

The road actually kept going beyond this day use area towards some campgrounds as well as a boat launch area, but we didn’t need to pursue those to visit Burney Falls.

Anyways, this drive would require around under 90 minutes or so to cover the 64 miles from Redding to here.

Driving from Mt Shasta to Burney Falls

From Mt Shasta, we’d take the I-5 south for just under 2 miles to its junction to Hwy 89.

We’d then follow Hwy 89 southeast for roughly 50 miles (requiring around an hour’s drive) before turning right into the state park entrance and kiosk.

And if you’re curious about where Lassen Volcanic was relative to Burney Falls, its northern corridor by Manzanita Lake was about 42 miles further to the south along Hwy 89 (taking under 50 minutes according to GoogleMaps).

Anyways, when we did the drive from Burney Falls to Mt Shasta, it took us a little over an hour (though we took longer due to a detour to the Clear Creek Trailhead on Mt Shasta’s southeastern slopes).

Finally, to give you some more 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.

Examining burney falls from the overlook, including the springs flanking the main drops


Long movie examining burney falls from its base from all sorts of different angles


Long sweep focusing on the front of burney falls and its aquamarine pool fronting it

Tagged with: burney, macarthur burney memorial, state park, shasta county, california, northern california, waterfall, springs, blue green, roosevelt



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Burney Falls – Burney, California September 1, 2010 5:03 pm by David Blackley - Hello Glad to know there are waterfall lovers like myself. I am enjoying the website. I thought I would post to you a picture of a waterfall in California that is northwest of Tahoe. It is called Burney Falls. I did not see it on the web site and thought I would give you the… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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