About Frazier Falls
Frazier Falls (also known as Frazier Creek Falls) was a very impressively tall waterfall.
According to a sign here, it was said to be 176ft in height (or 248ft in total if you include the cascading sections).
In a way, this waterfall’s glacial origins kind of hinted at the kind of geology that we’d be seeing more of as we made our way to the Lake Tahoe area from nearby Graeagle.
In fact, the interplay of glaciers with the granite landscape that was common in this part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range made it apparent to us why Plumas National Forest had so many waterfalls.
This included the famed Feather Falls further to the west near Oroville.
Anyways, it was this glacial action of depressing the land then receding as the climate warmed to reveal hanging canyons and valleys that allowed for granite waterfalls like this to exist.
In the case of Frazier Falls, this action created Gold Lake, which ultimately sourced Frazier Creek some six miles further upstream.
Experiencing Frazier Falls
Accessing Frazier Falls involved a pretty straightforward walk of about a mile round-trip.
It led to an overlook that yielded the picture you see at the top of this page.
We wound up taking about an hour away from the car so it was a fairly short visit.
At the very minimum, Frazier Falls provided us with a nice opportunity to stretch our legs as we were in the midst of a pretty long drive between Lassen Volcanic National Park and South Lake Tahoe.
That said, there seemed to be many other ways to access this waterfall, which I’m sure exacerbated its popularity, but we stuck with the most straightforward method on our visit.
One thing that we noticed during our visit was that Frazier Creek seemed to be rapidly on the decline in terms of waterflow.
So that indicated to us that we were probably fortunate to have timed our visit for the middle of June when it could be a bit on the disappointing side going into July or later.
Description of the Frazier Falls Trail
From the well-signed trailhead and parking area (see directions below), we walked through the paved path flanked by a restroom.
Then, we passed between a handful of picnic tables under some initial shade.
Mom and I noticed that this was quite the popular place, especially since it seemed like the access to Frazier Falls was very convenient.
After all, the trail was pretty much paved the entire way meaning that it was wheelchair accessible.
In addition, the path was pretty much open to the sun, which revealed some interesting rocks (hinting at the geology at play here) as well as some hints of wildflowers in the bush mats flanking the trail.
The mostly flat trail curved this way and that as it meandered over a bridge crossing Frazier Creek while passing by some more rest benches (further confirming that this trail was built with all-access in mind).
Peering downstream from the bridge, we could glimpse where Frazier Creek would suddenly disappear over the falls.
After around 15-20 minutes of walking to cover the half-mile distance in each direction, we eventually reached the overlook area.
There were tall fences to keep people from being tempted to get any closer to the drop offs.
It was from here that we were able to peer directly down at the impressive Frazier Falls while also getting partial glimpses further down the canyon.
We had to be content with our views of the falls because it seemed like there was no safe and sane way to come close to getting down to its bottom.
So we did like most other people did and savored the views as much as possible before heading back the way we came.
While it wasn’t possible to safely get close to the water to cool off in the hot sun (during our visit, it was 82F at the car and 90F in nearby Graeagle), I guess that was what the recreational opportunities at Gold Lake was for.
Frazier Falls resides in the Plumas National Forest near Graeagle in Siskiyou 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.
Since there seemed to be many different ways to get close to the town of Graeagle and the Frazier Falls, we’ll describe the routes from each of the major cities and towns that we’re aware of.
The route that we took was essentially from Red Bluff so we’ll start with that route first even though it wasn’t the shortest route.
Driving from Red Bluff to Frazier Falls
From the town of Red Bluff, we briefly drove south on the I-5 before taking the exit 649 for Hwy 36.
At the light, we turned left to go east on Hwy 36, which would then continue after turning left once we got beyond the east end of town (roughly two miles east of the I-5).
From there, we followed the Hwy 36 for about 43 miles to the junction with Hwy 89.
This long stretch started off passing through pretty dry rolling hills before it entered the mountains.
The junction with the Hwy 89 was a few miles east of the small hamlet of Mineral.
Turning right to go south on Hwy 89, we then continued on the mostly two-lane highway (with limited passing lanes) for about 90 miles.
We turned right to continue on Hwy 89 (where it and Hwy 70 split off) going into the town of Graeagle a little over a mile south from this split.
Passing through the town, we then turned right onto the Gold Lake Highway, where we’d follow it for roughly 1.6 miles before turning left onto the narrower Gold Lake Forest Highway.
Continuing another four miles up the ascending 1.5-lane road (becoming Frazier Creek Rd along the way), we’d eventually reach the well-signed trailhead and parking area.
There were a couple of open parking spots when we showed up on a Sunday, but it seemed like parking was a bit limited.
Anyways, our drive time breakdown was just under an hour from Red Bluff to the Hwy 36/Hwy 89 junction.
Then, it took us just under 2 hours from the Hwy 36/Hwy 89 junction near Lassen Volcanic National Park to Graeagle.
Finally, it took us 15 minutes to drive from Graeagle along Gold Lake Hwy and Gold Lake Forest Hwy.
Driving from Reno to Frazier Falls
From the city of Reno, we’d drive north along the Hwy 395 for about 25 miles to the Hwy 70.
Then, we’d head west on Hwy 70 for about 33 miles to its junction with Hwy 89.
Next, we’d turn left onto Hwy 89 and follow the directions as above through Graeagle then to the Gold Lake Forest Hwy via the Gold Lake Hwy.
This approach would take a little over an hour’s drive.
Driving from Grass Valley to Frazier Falls
From Grass Valley, we’d take Hwy 20 north for under 5 miles before heading west on Hwy 49.
Then, we’d follow Hwy 49 for the next 58 miles or so to its junction with the Gold Lake Road.
Following Gold Lake Road north for the next 6.7 miles, we’d then turn right onto Frazier Creek Road (near Gold Lake).
Then, we’d follow Frazier Creek Road for the last 1.7 miles to the well-signed trailhead.
Driving from Truckee to Frazier Falls
Finally, from Truckee, we’d drive east on the I-80 for a couple of miles before exiting at Hwy 89.
We’d then drive north on Hwy 89 for about 43 miles to the Gold Lake Hwy on the left (just south of the town of Graeagle).
Then, we’d follow the Gold Lake Hwy route as described above.
This drive would also consume a little over an hour.
To give you an idea of the geographical context, Red Bluff was 186 miles (under 3 hours drive) north of San Francisco, 131 miles (about 2 hours drive) north of Sacramento, 178 miles (3 hours drive) south of Medford, Oregon, 192 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Reno, Nevada, and 515 miles (about 7.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.
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