Waterfalls of Whiskeytown

"Don't go chasing waterfalls," notes the line of a popular song by TLC. Yet here at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, we encourage you to chase waterfalls - go visit them! The park has four major waterfalls, or cascades. Currently, Boulder Creek Falls, Whiskeytown Falls, and Crystal Creek Falls are open to the public. Brandy Creek Falls remain temporarily closed due to post-Carr Fire environmental hazards and safety concerns. Continue reading for information on each waterfall or download our trail guides for each waterfall trail.

Remember to purchase your entrance pass before heading out to the waterfalls and also remember to bring water with you. Finally, lock your vehicle and keep all valuables with you.

 
A man, a boy, and a girl pose at the base of Boulder Creek Falls in April 2022.
This family loves Boulder Creek Falls and so can you! Photo courtesy of Trent Smith.

Boulder Creek Falls

The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. This cool respite is inviting after hiking uphill from South Shore Drive (2.7 miles one way, 1,000 feet elevation gain) or from the top of Mill Creek Road (1.1 mile one way, 150 feet elevation gain).

The winter after the Carr Fire, massive amounts of debris tumbled down the waterfall and created a 13 foot tall log jam at the base of the falls. Park facilities management staff and members of the California Conservation Crew removed the large debris pile in March 2022 and Boulder Creek Falls reopened to the public April 1st!

Like much of the park, the forest around Boulder Creek Falls was selectively logged in the 1950s. As you hike to the falls, you are on hauling roads that carried old-growth Douglas fir and ponderosa pines to the sawmill. When the park was established in 1965, as part of the compromise, some logging was allowed to continue into the early 1970's.

 
Two female visitors doing handstands at the base of Whiskeytown Falls.
Will you try these poses at the base of Whiskeytown Falls?

Whiskeytown Falls

The tallest cascade in the park, Whiskeytown Falls is reached via a strenuous 1.7 mile hike (3.4 miles roundtrip) on the James K. Carr Trail. The trail follows some steep sections of old logging roads and climbs approximately 700 feet to the falls. Offering good exercise, shade, views through the mixed conifer forest, and a backcountry experience, the James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls is the most popular trail in the park. At the base of the waterfall, be sure and carefully climb up the cement stairs to the upper viewing platform.

2004: A Waterfall is Rediscovered!
Before becoming Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, this area of the park was privately owned by Arthur Coggins, whose logging company selectively removed Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine and incense cedar during the 1950s. At this time, the loggers were generally the only people who knew about the falls. Park rangers initially learned about the waterfall in 1967 but kept it quiet. At that time, the park did not have the staff to protect this treasure or the money to construct a trail to the falls. Eventually, these rangers moved on and others who knew about the site passed away. Knowledge of the falls was generally forgotten and only a few residents visited the falls over the years. It wasn't until 2004 that park natural resource managers Russ Weatherbee and Brian Rasmussen found the falls again. Under the leadership of park superintendent Jim Milestone, funding was secured and the formal trail to Whiskeytown Falls was constructed. It opened to the public in 2006.


James K. Carr: The Father of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
The trail to Whiskeytown Falls is named in honor of James K. Carr, one of Redding's native sons and an instrumental figure in the establishment of what is officially known as Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. A state and national reclamation official, Carr served as President John F. Kennedy's Undersecretary of the Interior, the number two position in the department behind Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.

 
Crystal Creek Falls cascade
Lower Crystal Creek Falls.

Crystal Creek Falls

The short 0.5 mile trail to Crystal Creek Falls is paved, flat, and accessible. The shallow natural pool at the base of the cascade is a popular spot for swimming and wading in the summer. There is ample shade.

Fun Fact: Crystal Creek Falls was moved to its present location in the early 1960s to make way for the Trinity River diversion tunnel. Prior to this time, the small waterfall was located directly where the small valve house building now stands (looking at the waterfall from the end of the paved trail, the building is just to your right). The diversion tunnel runs 10 miles and dumps water into Whiskeytown Lake via the Judge Francis Carr Powerhouse. When it is necessary to dewater the tunnel for maintenance, the valve is turned off and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek.

 

Brandy Creek Falls

The Brandy Creek Falls Trail remains closed due to post-Carr Fire environmental hazards and safety concerns. The upper portion of this trail was completely destroyed during heavy rains the winter after the Carr Fire.

Last updated: May 2, 2022

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 188
Whiskeytown , CA 96095

Phone:

530 242-3400

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