Feather Falls

Oroville / Plumas National Forest, California, USA

About Feather Falls


Hiking Distance: 9 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 4-5 hours

Date first visited: 2016-05-21
Date last visited: 2016-05-21

Waterfall Latitude: 39.64287
Waterfall Longitude: -121.27438

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Feather Falls was certainly one of the most impressive waterfalls we’ve seen in the state of California outside of Yosemite National Park.

Typically waterfalls with this much volume and size would be reserved for the place that John Muir fought hard to protect.

Feather_Falls_164_05212016 - Feather Falls
Feather Falls

However, in this particular instance, it was always on our bucket list ever since we first became aware of it after flipping through our California Waterfalls book by Ann Marie Brown.

In the past, I think the euphoria and hype around this waterfall went hand-in-hand with exaggerated claims about its height being some 640ft tall.

I believe some measurements made by fellow waterfall enthusiasts had put the height of Feather Falls at about 410ft.

In any case, we were thoroughly awed by its sheer volume and grandeur, and it even exhibited a kind of “feathery” characteristic (for lack of a better word).

Feather_Falls_021_mom_05212016 - Partial look at Feather Falls where its uppermost section appears to be channeled into a chute before it fans out over the remainder of its drop
Partial look at Feather Falls where its uppermost section appears to be channeled into a chute before it fans out over the remainder of its drop

By this I meant that we were mesmerized by the fringes of the falling water splitting into tinier droplets as it hit some terminal velocity and would eventually disappear into vapor.

This kind of action was typically seen for massive freefalling waterfalls in Yosemite National Park like Yosemite Falls or Bridalveil Fall.

About the Feather Falls Hike and the Recommended Route

Perhaps the one thing this waterfall had going for it that most other waterfalls in Yosemite didn’t have was the sense that it was nestled in true wilderness.

Indeed, there were no cars, no roads, and just the minimum amount of infrastructure to support a trail and some overlooks.

Feather_Falls_297_05212016 - Mom on the more lush lower trail on the return hike from Feather Falls
Mom on the more lush lower trail on the return hike from Feather Falls

As a result of all these back-to-Nature aspects about Feather Falls, it wasn’t surprising that this was also one of the most popular waterfalls in Northern California despite the amount of work necessary to even reach it.

The park signage here indicated that we would need at least 4-5 hours to complete the hike.

Still, it also turned out that there were many ways to do this trail with varying levels of exertion and enjoyment.

Distance wise, the hike could be as little as 6.6 miles round trip, or upwards of 9 miles round trip, or more.

Feather_Falls_015_05212016 - Mom keeping right at this fork to pursue the upper trail to Feather Falls first before returning via the lower trail (the branch on the left)
Mom keeping right at this fork to pursue the upper trail to Feather Falls first before returning via the lower trail (the branch on the left)

We’ll describe how we did it which covered a distance of 10 miles in a counterclockwise loop as well as an out-and-back interlude to the top of Feather Falls.

We think this method was the “right” way to do it because the hiking was predominantly downhill except for a couple of modest uphill sections as well as a fairly taxing uphill at the very end of the hike.

As a result, our route allowed us to more leisurely experience the best of the Feather Falls Loop Hike without missing the intermediate highlights due to fatigue.

The mostly gentle downhill grade of doing the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner helped my Mom’s knees, especially at the beginning when the weather was still cold.

Feather_Falls_045_05212016 - The Frey Creek Falls was one of the benefits of doing the Feather Falls Loop hike in a counterclockwise manner by starting on the upper trail to the right
The Frey Creek Falls was one of the benefits of doing the Feather Falls Loop hike in a counterclockwise manner by starting on the upper trail to the right

We even had enough energy to pursue the aforementioned top of Feather Falls thanks to the relatively easy-to-moderate difficulty in taking the counterclockwise route.

By contrast, we saw lots of other people go in the opposite direction we were going.

However, it seemed quite apparent to us that from their frequent inquiries through their heavy breathing of “are we there yet?” that their enjoyment factor was nowhere near what we were able to get.

Finally before getting into the detailed trail description, we have to give props to Leon Turnbull.

Feather_Falls_026_05212016 - Mom on the lush upper trail leading to Feather Falls as we did the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner
Mom on the lush upper trail leading to Feather Falls as we did the loop hike in a counterclockwise manner

He first made us aware that going against intuition and taking the longer part of the loop on the right first (i.e. going counterclockwise) was the best way to do this hike.

Without knowing this, we could’ve easily done what just about everyone else did and follow the “shorter” trail in the clockwise direction.

In our experience, this didn’t even save time despite it being about 1.2 miles less in length.

Not only were we able to experience a variety of other things about the Feather Falls Trail in addition to the main waterfall itself (e.g. a separate waterfall, less people, more open scenery, etc.), but the hard part was at the very end.

Feather_Falls_263_05212016 - The slightly longer upper trail to Feather Falls didn't tire us out so we had the energy to pursue the top of the Feather Falls itself
The slightly longer upper trail to Feather Falls didn’t tire us out so we had the energy to pursue the top of the Feather Falls itself

Since we were already looking forward to finishing off the hike by then (and thus be prone to missing out on some other nice aspects about the trail), we didn’t mind this taxing part being at the end.

From some of the prior comments made at the trailhead register saying “Don’t do it!”, it made us wonder if these folks went the harder way and suffered as a result of it.

It was either that or they were trying to play a prank on would-be hikers.

Feather Falls Trail Description – from the Trailhead to the Bald Dome Rock Overlook

From the well-signed and fairly spacious Feather Falls Trailhead parking lot, which can fill up quite easily later in the day, (see directions below), we promptly went on the trail as it began by a trailhead register.

Feather_Falls_011_05212016 - Mom starting on the Feather Falls hike as we were about to approach the important trail junction of the upper and lower trails
Mom starting on the Feather Falls hike as we were about to approach the important trail junction of the upper and lower trails

Beyond this register, we hiked nearly a half-mile (15 minutes) amidst forested terrain before encountering an important trail junction.

At this junction, there was a sign where the left side said the falls was 3.3 miles away to the left, while the other side said it was 4.5 miles away to the right.

We wound up doing the longer trail on the right first (for reasons we’ve just explained earlier), but I could totally see why most people would be tempted to go left on the shorter trail.

Anyways, going right at this junction, the trail gently descended for most of the way as we were surrounded by tall trees.

Feather_Falls_032_05212016 - Mom hiking on the upper trail leading gently downhill through lush gullies and eventually climbing towards Feather Falls
Mom hiking on the upper trail leading gently downhill through lush gullies and eventually climbing towards Feather Falls

The path weaved in and out of lush gullies with a mild degree of overgrowth where we were always cognizant of poison oak exposure.

This scenery would persist for a little over the first mile (taking us around 30 minutes) before we’d arrive at a bridge over the rushing Frey Creek.

At this bridge, we encountered an attractive waterfall (Frey Creek Falls?), which really lent itself to long exposure photographs.

Fortunately, that bridge had railings to make it easier to do this without a tripod.

Feather_Falls_037_05212016 - Mom checking out an interpretive sign by the Frey Creek Bridge where there was also an attractive cascade
Mom checking out an interpretive sign by the Frey Creek Bridge where there was also an attractive cascade

After prying ourselves away from this scenic spot on Frey Creek, the trail then started going uphill for the next 3/4-mile.

This uphill stretch wasn’t terribly steep and it probably took us around 25 minutes to complete it.

As the climb started to flatten out, we were then treated to a distant view of Bald Rock Dome way in the distance across the canyon.

The deep canyon itself was carved out by the Middle Fork Feather River (now possibly inundated by the headwaters of the Lake Oroville Reservoir).

Feather_Falls_079_05212016 - Looking way in the distance towards some tall waterfall as seen from around the Bald Dome Rock lookout
Looking way in the distance towards some tall waterfall as seen from around the Bald Dome Rock lookout

An interpretive sign here said that Bald Dome Rock was formed by the same geologic process that was responsible for Half Dome so it was indeed a granite dome.

During our visit, we also noticed some tall but likely seasonal waterfall to the north of Bald Rock Dome, which we weren’t sure of whether it had a name or not.

Regardless, it certainly wasn’t Curtain Falls, which we knew was on the Middle Fork Feather River itself and was very difficult to access.

Feather Falls Trail Description – from the Bald Dome Rock Overlook to the Lake Oroville Overlook

Beyond the Bald Dome Rock Overlook, the flattened out trail then undulated through more gullies as it generally gently descended for the next 1.8 miles or so (taking us about 50 minutes to hike along this stretch).

Feather_Falls_088_05212016 - Context of Mom approaching another one of the lush gullies along the upper trail to the Feather Falls
Context of Mom approaching another one of the lush gullies along the upper trail to the Feather Falls

Each of the gullies were very lush and somewhat overgrown.

We also spotted some more of those red lizards or salamanders, especially around those gullies where there tended to be more water.

There were a few more interpretive signs along the way including one that identified poison oak, which was always on our minds whenever we had to traverse through overgrowth.

Anyways, at the end of this stretch, we would reach another trail junction where a sign saying “Falls” pointed to our right.

Feather_Falls_107_05212016 - Mom following 'The Falls' sign at a trail junction on the far end of where the lower and upper trails to Feather Falls merged
Mom following ‘The Falls’ sign at a trail junction on the far end of where the lower and upper trails to Feather Falls merged

We knew that going left at this junction would take us back to the trailhead along the “shorter” and lower loop.

So after obeying the sign, we promptly ascended a lone switchback before it made a straight ascent up to an overlook of the Middle Fork Feather River.

This uphill stretch surprised us in that it appeared that the surface of the trail was partially paved.

We weren’t sure why that was, but it appeared to continue to deteriorate and give in to the erosive forces of Nature.

Feather_Falls_116_05212016 - Looking towards the headwaters of Lake Oroville from the Middle Fork Feather River lookout
Looking towards the headwaters of Lake Oroville from the Middle Fork Feather River lookout

Anyways, going from the “Falls” sign to the Middle Fork Feather River overlook took us about 10 minutes to go the quarter-mile.

At the lookout, we were able to peer down at the headwaters of Lake Oroville, where we spotted at least one boat.

Apparently, it was possible to boat to get closer to the base of Feather Falls.

Speaking of which, we started to hear the loud yet faint crashing sounds of water so we knew that the waterfall was not far away from where we were at.

Feather Falls Trail Description – from the Lake Oroville Overlook to the Feather Falls Overlook

Next, the trail hugged some cliff ledges with railings for assurance for the next 0.1-mile.

Feather_Falls_131_05212016 - Partial views of Feather Falls as the trail descended towards its lookout
Partial views of Feather Falls as the trail descended towards its lookout

It would eventually switch back where there was a sign pointing down and to our left for the “Overlook” while there was another trail that branched up and to our right along some stone steps.

We followed the lower path to the overlook where Feather Falls was slowly revealing itself.

That said, the views along the way were mostly obstructed by the overgrowth throughout this part of the trail (probably fed by the mist wafting up from the waterfall itself).

Eventually, we’d reach a set of steep steps leading right down to the Feather Falls Overlook.

Feather_Falls_136_05212016 - Mom continuing down past this trail junction as she obeyed a sign saying 'Overlook' which led down to the Feather Falls Overlook
Mom continuing down past this trail junction as she obeyed a sign saying ‘Overlook’ which led down to the Feather Falls Overlook

The lookout seemed to be perched atop a rock outcrop at nearly eye level with the brink of the amazing waterfall itself.

It took my mother and I about 2.5 hours to go the 4.5 miles to get to this point going about the loop hike in the anticlockwise direction.

With our early start, it was just us and one other Indian couple who were faster hikers than us.

From the wooden overlook, we were able to peer right across the vertical canyon at the Feather Falls.

Feather_Falls_196_05212016 - Context of Mom at the Feather Falls Overlook Viewing Platform
Context of Mom at the Feather Falls Overlook Viewing Platform

Moreover, we were also able to look downstream towards the Middle Fork Feather River.

Note that the Feather Falls was actually on the Fall River, and it would join the larger Middle Fork Feather River further downstream.

Given the verticality around this overlook, it was easy to get a sense of vertigo peering at the vertical rocks and cliffs nearly adjacent to this lookout platform.

While there was the temptation to try to vary up the Feather Falls experience, there really wasn’t a safe and sane way to do it from around this overlook thanks to the sheer cliffs in all directions.

Feather_Falls_221_05212016 - After having our fill of the Feather Falls Overlook, Mom started to make her way back up to the trail junction by the 'Overlook' sign
After having our fill of the Feather Falls Overlook, Mom started to make her way back up to the trail junction by the ‘Overlook’ sign

So after having our fill, we then hiked back up to the junction by the “Overlook” sign.

Feather Falls Trail Description – Option to scramble to the brink of Feather Falls

We then made a detour by going left onto the rock steps.

This trail then led us on a somewhat overgrown trail that would eventually lead us to the top of Feather Falls.

After about a half-mile from the overlook, we took one of the informal trails of use to our left descending steeply towards the banks of the Fall River.

Feather_Falls_240_05212016 - Mom continuing on the fairly defined yet semi-overgrown trail leading to the top of Feather Falls
Mom continuing on the fairly defined yet semi-overgrown trail leading to the top of Feather Falls

We suspected that under warmer weather and lower flow, these trails would lead to swimming holes to cool off.

We did find some faint trails and rock scrambling paths leading further downstream to the brink of Feather Falls.

After crawling through a small “arch” (or going around it), I found myself at a fenced section right above the brink of Feather Falls.

Due to the fencing as well as the protruding rock ledges in front, it was hard to get a clean view.

Feather_Falls_244_05212016 - Looking over the brink of Feather Falls from Cooper Point
Looking over the brink of Feather Falls from Cooper Point

That said, given that a sign here indicated someone died from this spot not long ago, I guess the fencing was understandable.

Anyways, I also noticed a plaque saying this spot was known as Cooper Point named after Dr. O.O. Cooper.

There were some remnants of metal poles protruding from the giant rock slabs that I was standing on.

This suggested to me that perhaps this place was once a sanctioned trail and lookout.

Feather_Falls_245_05212016 - Looking back at the plaque put on a large slab of rock dedicated to Dr. O. O. Cooper near the brink of Feather Falls
Looking back at the plaque put on a large slab of rock dedicated to Dr. O. O. Cooper near the brink of Feather Falls

But now, it appeared that this spot was allowed to fall under the “informal” status as apparently Cooper Point could very well be deemed too dangerous to be an easily accessed spot just off the Feather Falls hiking trail.

Regardless, it was not easy to get a clean look at Feather Falls from this point, and so we didn’t spend too much time here before heading back.

Once we were back on the main trail, we then descended back to the northern end of the loop trail.

We then continued onto the lower loop to go the remaining three miles or so back to the Feather Falls Trailhead.

Feather Falls Trail Description – returning on the North (or lower) side

Feather_Falls_283_05212016 - Mom on the downhill yet more lush lower trail as we were doing the remaining half of the Feather Falls Loop Hike (opposite of how other people were going)
Mom on the downhill yet more lush lower trail as we were doing the remaining half of the Feather Falls Loop Hike (opposite of how other people were going)

This lower loop trail continued to go downhill fairly moderately as we returned to lush forested terrain with more overgrown gullies.

It was at this point of the trail that we ran into dozens of hikers going the other way.

That kind of suggested to us that this lower loop was definitely much more popular and well-used than the longer upper part of the loop that we did earlier.

For the next 1.3 miles, the trail would eventually bottom out at one of these gullies before starting a gradual uphill that led us to another (but a bit closer) view of Bald Rock Dome.

Feather_Falls_304_05212016 - Looking towards the Bald Dome Rock in the distance from a lookout along the lower trail on our way back from Feather Falls
Looking towards the Bald Dome Rock in the distance from a lookout along the lower trail on our way back from Feather Falls

Beyond this overlook, the trail would climb a little more steeply as it would eventually reach a lower bridge across Frey Creek in the next half-mile or so (15 minutes).

Beyond the Frey Creek Bridge, that was when the trail sharply ascended up a series of many switchbacks.

This was perhaps the most physically taxing part of the trail, but we also knew that once we could get up to the end of this climb, the hike was pretty much over.

It took my Mom and I about 30 minutes to complete this steep uphill.

Feather_Falls_323_05212016 - Mom going up the series of switchbacks marking the end of the lower trail and close to the end of the entire hike as we were coming back from Feather Falls
Mom going up the series of switchbacks marking the end of the lower trail and close to the end of the entire hike as we were coming back from Feather Falls

Near the end of this uphill stretch was an interpretive sign and jumble of boulders labeled the “Maidu Native Food Prep Site”.

Apparently, these boulders were used to store some of the collected grains or dried foods as well as acting as a place to grind some of these grains.

We’d eventually be back at the Feather Falls trailhead some 6 hours after we had gotten started (though we easily spent at least an hour stopping for photos).

Authorities

Feather Falls resides in the Plumas National Forest near Oroville in Butte County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Feather_Falls_008_05212016 - Mom on the initial nearly half-mile stretch from the trailhead to the first junction of the Feather Falls loop trail
Feather_Falls_009_05212016 - It turned out that this sign was the first of two dedications to people who have somehow had an influence or impact on the Feather Falls Scenic Trail. This particular one was dedicated to Dennis Larsen
Feather_Falls_014_05212016 - Mom on the lush forested Feather Falls Trail as we were approaching the key trail junction separating the upper and lower trails on the loop hike
Feather_Falls_017_05212016 - Looking ahead at a bend in the trail on the gently descending upper trail to Feather Falls after having taken the right fork to go in a counterclockwise loop
Feather_Falls_021_05212016 - After keeping right at the first loop junction (to do this hike in a counterclockwise manner), the Feather Falls Trail gently descended amidst some impressively tall trees. The gentle descent was helpful to my Mom's knees, especially given how cold it was when we got started
Feather_Falls_022_05212016 - Our early start meant that there was still some lingering fog along the Feather Falls Trail
Feather_Falls_034_05212016 - The presence of moss on many of the tall trees around the Feather Falls upper trail suggested to us how lush and wet this area can be throughout the Winter and Spring months
Feather_Falls_043_05212016 - Looking upstream at the attractive waterfall on Frey Creek from the footbridge over it
Feather_Falls_048_05212016 - Another look at the Frey Creek Waterfall seen at about the 1.5-mile point from the trailhead or a little over a mile from the first loop junction
Feather_Falls_055_05212016 - Looking back at Frey Creek and the bridge over it as we began a moderate uphill stretch on the upper part of the Feather Falls Loop
Feather_Falls_059_05212016 - Although the forest cover started opening up a little, there were still patches of residual fog that we had to contend with on the upper trail of the Feather Falls Loop hike
Feather_Falls_066_05212016 - Near the top of the climb along the Feather Falls Trail, the forest cover was definitely less dense than it was earlier on
Feather_Falls_067_05212016 - Looking towards the Bald Dome Rock as seen from the lookout along the upper trail to Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_073_05212016 - Mom continuing along the Feather Falls Trail after the Bald Dome Rock Overlook
Feather_Falls_078_05212016 - Near the Bald Rock Dome viewpoint, we noticed this waterfall nearby it way in the distance
Feather_Falls_081_05212016 - Beyond Bald Rock Dome View, the Feather Falls upper trail continued flattening out and gradually descending some more
Feather_Falls_086_05212016 - Mom continuing on the upper trail leading to Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_090_05212016 - Mom going around another bend in the upper trail en route to the Feather Falls Overlook
Feather_Falls_095_05212016 - One of the many interpretive signs alongside the trail was about poison oak, and that got us to examine more carefully what the sign was talking about
Feather_Falls_098_05212016 - Some wildflowers seen along the upper trail to Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_099_05212016 - Mom continuing on the upper trail to Feather Falls. As you can see from the series of photos so far, this upper trail was quite tame from an elevation gain standpoint
Feather_Falls_108_05212016 - A surprising thing about the climb up to the overlook for Feather Falls was that it appeared this part of the trail had some pavement
Feather_Falls_110_05212016 - Mom continuing the uphill climb in the direction of the Feather Falls as the tree cover continued to thin out
Feather_Falls_113_05212016 - Mom approaching the railings for the Middle Fork Feather River Overlook
Feather_Falls_114_05212016 - Mom at the overlook of the Middle Fork Feather River
Feather_Falls_025_mom_05212016 - The view of the Middle Fork Feather River and the headwaters of Lake Oroville from the lookout at the top of the climb
Feather_Falls_125_05212016 - Mom continuing beyond the Middle Fork Feather River Overlook towards the Feather Falls Overlook
Feather_Falls_126_05212016 - Partial view of the top of Feather Falls as we were getting closer to the end of the official Feather Falls Trail
Feather_Falls_129_05212016 - Looking towards more wildflowers blooming alongside the Feather Falls Trail
Feather_Falls_135_05212016 - The Feather Falls Trail started to hug cliffs with railings to reassure us that we wouldn't drop over the edge
Feather_Falls_142_05212016 - Mom descending towards the Feather Falls Overlook at the end of this trail
Feather_Falls_145_05212016 - Views of Feather Falls remained obstructed until we got to the overlook
Feather_Falls_157_05212016 - Broad look at the Feather Falls and the underlying cliff walls supporting it
Feather_Falls_180_05212016 - Clean look at the Feather Falls once we got to the Feather Falls Overlook
Feather_Falls_197_05212016 - Mom at the lookout deck peering down at Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_199_05212016 - Another look at Feather Falls where the falls appeared to have jets that would dissipate into tinier droplets and eventually disappear into the building mist at its bottom
Feather_Falls_204_05212016 - It seemed like Feather Falls created its own weather as clouds would form from its mist at its base. Mom and I theorized that perhaps the temperature difference between the air and the canyon depths might be responsible for the cloud formation
Feather_Falls_223_05212016 - Looking out the other side of the Feather Falls Overlook Platform was the headwaters of Lake Oroville and the Middle Fork Feather River
Feather_Falls_226_05212016 - Continuing back up towards the trail junction with the spur trail leading to the top of the Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_233_05212016 - During the brief nearly half-mile detour to the top of Feather Falls, we encountered more of these red lizards or salamanders or something
Feather_Falls_237_05212016 - More wildflowers seen along our short hike and scramble to the top of Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_241_05212016 - Mom scrambling around to reach the brink of Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_246_05212016 - Close examination of the plaque on a slab near the brink of Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_255_05212016 - Looking across the canyon towards the lookout platform for Feather Falls as seen from the brink of Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_258_05212016 - Mom chilling out by the banks of the Fall River upstream from Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_267_05212016 - Yet another one of these salamander-looking things near the brink of Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_279_05212016 - Mom descending on the lower trail as we were making our way back towards the Feather Falls Trailhead
Feather_Falls_289_05212016 - Mom going past a bench on the lower trail leading back to the Feather Falls Trailhead
Feather_Falls_291_05212016 - Mom hiking in a seemingly more lush part of the lower trail on the way back from Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_292_05212016 - Mom going past one of the non-trivial flooded parts of the lower trail leading back from Feather Falls to the start of its loop. I'd imagine that if there was more water, then there might be too much flood to get through this cleanly
Feather_Falls_294_05212016 - Mom continuing on the very lush and green lower trail back from the Feather Falls
Feather_Falls_299_05212016 - Even though the lower trail on the Feather Falls Scenic Loop was shorter, I got the sense that the trail was a bit narrower, more prone to flooding, and a bit more primitive
Feather_Falls_301_05212016 - After bottoming out on the lower loop, the Feather Falls lower trail gradually ascended alongside cliffs like this
Feather_Falls_311_05212016 - Nice wildflowers growing alongside the lower trail part of the Feather Falls loop hike
Feather_Falls_313_05212016 - Mom continuing to make her way back along the lower trail to the Feather Falls Trailhead
Feather_Falls_315_05212016 - Mom going past another rest bench as we were getting close to the final climb out of the lower trail and back up towards the Feather Falls Trailhead
Feather_Falls_316_05212016 - Approaching the bridge over Frey Creek though unlike the upper part of the loop, there wasn't an attractive waterfall to gawk at
Feather_Falls_317_05212016 - Mom about to cross the bridge over Frey Creek as we were about to make the final climb just on the other side of the bridge
Feather_Falls_322_05212016 - Mom making the final climb up a series of switchbacks marking the end of our lower trail section of the Feather Falls Loop
Feather_Falls_332_05212016 - This was the Maidu Native Food Prep site according to some interpretive sign. Apparently dried foods and grains were stored here as well as the rocks serving as grind stones to refine the grains
Feather_Falls_334_05212016 - Mom on the last bit of trail as we were just about to conclude our epic Feather Falls Loop hike

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We were able to reach the Feather Falls Trailhead by staying in Oroville, then making the nearly hour-long drive.

This allowed us to get an early start and beat the rush (or the crush).

We’ll pick up the driving directions from Oroville.

Feather_Falls_336_05212016 - Looking towards one end of the parking lot for the Feather Falls Scenic Trail
Looking towards one end of the parking lot for the Feather Falls Scenic Trail

From the Hwy 70 off ramp at Oroville Dam Blvd (Hwy 162), we then drove east along Oroville‘s main drag for about 1.5 miles to Olive Hwy.

Turning right onto Olive Hwy (continuing Hwy 162), we the drove for roughly 6.5 miles to Forbestown Road.

Leaving Hwy 162 and turning right onto Forbestown Road, we then drove about 6 miles, where we kept left at the next main junction to go onto Lumpkin Road.

We’d then continue another 11 miles on Lumpkin Road until we reached a signposted turnoff for the Feather Falls Trailhead to our left.

Feather_Falls_341_05212016 - Looking in the other direction at the parking lot for the Feather Falls Scenic Trail
Looking in the other direction at the parking lot for the Feather Falls Scenic Trail

Turning left onto Feather Falls Trailhead Road, we’d follow this road all the way to its end for the next 1.6 miles.

Overall, this drive was on the order of about 27 miles.

Finally, the accommodations in Oroville (for one reason or another) seemed to get booked out quickly (or have skyrocketing prices).

At least that was our experience in May 2016.

Feather_Falls_002_05212016 - Our early start allowed us to arrive at the Feather Falls Scenic Trailhead with pretty much our choice of parking spots as well as fewer people on the trail
Our early start allowed us to arrive at the Feather Falls Scenic Trailhead with pretty much our choice of parking spots as well as fewer people on the trail

Possible alternate cities to stay in besides Oroville could be as far south as Yuba City (about 30 miles or 40 minutes drive) or Chico to the northwest (24 miles or nearly 30 minutes drive).

Oroville was about 70 miles north of Sacramento along Hwy 70 (taking roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes of driving).

360 degree sweep from the Feather Falls lookout platform before ending the movie by focusing on the falling water action within the falls itself


Right to left sweep of the top of Feather Falls which examining stopping points along the way


Frey Creek Waterfall (on the way to Feather Falls); downstream to upstream sweep ending at the falls

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations



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Tagged with: oroville, plumas national forest, american river, butte county, northern california, waterfall, frey creek



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Feather Falls July 5, 2013 1:29 am by Laura Kling - Feather Falls is located on the Fall River, a tributary of the Middle Fork Feather River, within the Plumas National Forest in Butte County. The trail from the parking lot to the observation deck and back is about 8 - 9 miles depending on which trail you take. Once at the observation platform it's another… ...Read More

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The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.