About Mill Creek Falls
Mill Creek Falls was kind of our waterfalling excuse to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park (though it wasn’t the only one in the reserve).
This waterfall featured a gushing 75ft drop just below the confluence of East Sulphur Creek along with Bumpass Creek.
Bumpass Creek originated from the Bumpass Hot Springs in the famed Bumpass Hell part of the park.
Thus, Mom and I definitely whiffed traces of that rotten egg sulphur smell around the falls given the geothermal original of its feeding creeks.
Our mid- to late June visit in 2016 just so happened when much of Lassen Volcanic National Park was still under snow and ice throughout much of the reserve.
However, Mill Creek Falls was at low enough elevation that we were still able to do this hike.
In fact, our early Summer hike was full of colorful mats of wildflowers backed by the technicolor volcanic peaks that kind of made us think of Lassen Volcanic as California’s humble answer to Yellowstone National Park.
Hiking to Mill Creek Falls
Our 3.2-mile round trip hike to Mill Creek Falls was accessed from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center near the southwest entrance of the park (see directions below).
It had a net elevation gain of 300ft, but it had a bit of a V-shaped profile so it was considered to be a moderate in difficulty.
We wound up spending about 2.5 hours to complete this out-and-back hike, but we really took our time, especially at the brink of the falls.
So it’s conceivable that it could take a bit less time to finish this hike if you were in more of a hurry.
Mill Creek Falls Trail Description
At first we had trouble finding the trail, but a ranger at the visitor center told us that the trail started adjacent to the amphitheater and campground just outside of the building.
From there, the trail descended towards West Sulphur Creek, where we crossed a bridge then swung around a little meadow-like area with colorful mats of wildflowers.
This area was even more compelling from a photography standpoint because it was backed by colorful volcanic mountains further adding to the stunning and picturesque scene.
Then, the trail briefly climbed a bump before sharply descending into a lightly forested area.
After undulating up and down as well as in and out of forested sections, we’d eventually reach a short unbridged creek crossing.
Immediately after this crossing, the trail really began to climb in earnest.
Fortunately, most of the climb was in the shade of tall trees flanking us, but it was in this stretch that we would gain most of the net 300ft elevation.
The climb may be modest numbers-wise, but it definitely felt a lot longer than that (probably due to the elevation loss at the beginning that we had to get back and more).
In one section where the trees had parted, we were able to glimpse across a canyon to our right (cut by East Sulphur Creek) towards some minor cascades running due to the snow melt.
After roughly over an hour on the trail, we finally arrived at an overlook peering right down at the entirety of Mill Creek Falls.
It was from this vantage point that we managed to get the photo you see at the top of this page.
The trail continued towards the footbridges spanning both East Sulphur Creek and Bumpass Creek above the falls.
That second footbridge was as far as we’d go.
In order to celebrate our little accomplishment of making it to the falls, we spoiled ourselves with a picnic lunch near its brink where we were joined by dozens of other people.
Given how we managed to see many hikers going in both directions throughout the trail, we knew that this hike was indeed a very popular one.
Anyways, the scene at the top of Mill Creek Falls was such that we didn’t want to leave too quickly.
However, once we were done with our snack and water break while having our fill of the Mill Creek Falls (along with the faint sulphur smell), we then returned the way we came.
The reeturn hike was mostly downhill with a few minor uphill sections.
Then, we got to experience the wildflowers (especially in that stretch close to the bridge over West Sulphur Creek) all over again.
The hike ended with that final ascent back up to the visitor center.
Mill Creek Falls resides in Lassen Volcanic National Park near Red Bluff and Redding in Plumas County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
To get to Mill Creek Falls from the town of Red Bluff (where we stayed), 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 left to go north on Hwy 89, we then continued to go north for about five miles to the southwest entrance for Lassen Volcanic National Park.
At the time of our visit, the entrance fee per vehicle was $20.
Just on the other side of the kiosk was the large parking area for the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, which was where the Mill Creek Falls Trail started.
Overall, this drive took us a little over an hour.
From Redding, we would drive east on Hwy 44 for around 46 miles to its junction with Hwy 89.
Then, we’d take Hwy 89 south (right) into the northern side of Lassen Volcanic National Park and drive for the next 30 miles or so to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center just before the park’s southwest entrance.
The caveat for this road was that due to high elevation, it can be closed due to snow and ice.
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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