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Burney Falls and the Burney Creek Headwaters Trail

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial SP

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 3.2 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  A fairly simple hike on well developed trails. The steeper portions in areas heavily traveled tend to be paved, with steps and low... more »

Tips:  Location-Directions:
The park is northeast of Redding, six miles north of Highway 299 on Highway 89 near Burney.

McArthur-Burney... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Visitor's Center

2. General Store

Ample paved parking, restrooms, well stocked with the basics a large campground could need. Besides the general souvenirs, the store has fishing gear and a busy snack counter.

The Park has about 104 campsites and 24 cabins available. At a separate site about 1 mile down Lake Road at Lake Britton is a beach and a large Day Use picnic area, docks, ... More

3. Trail Head

We'll follow a portion of the "Falls Loop Trail", a segment of the "Pacific Crest Trail", and the Upper Burney Creek "Headwaters Trail" to form a convenient loop and provide a great overview of Burney Falls. The trail head is located across the road from the Visitor's Center.

This upper loop trail was recommended to me by the Park's Rangers who ... More

4. Informational and Interpretive Signage

Park history, established in 1922 as a State Park. Information on surrounding structures, a park map, Native Americans, wildlife, and the falls.

5. Steps down to Burney Falls view overlook

Follow the stone steps down to a view overlook perched atop the cliffs overlooking Burney Falls. Additionally, there's the commemorative dedication plaque and statistics on the falls.

Height of Falls: 129 Feet.
Depth of Pool: 22 Feet.
Water Temperature: 42-48 degrees.
Daily Flow: 1 Million Gallons.

Interpretive signage describes the geology of... More

6. Trail Down

The path on this side of the canyon is both paved, set with stone stairs, rock walls and iron rails to ease the decent to the pools at the base of Burney Falls.

Just about anyone can handle the trail unless there's health issues. The trail gets busy with bus tours.

7. Switchback

A shady stone benched switchback with interpretive signage.

"More Than Meets the Eye": Mosses, Lichens, and the Mahala Matt vegetation; Turtles, Mountain Lions, Bats, and Badgers! All living locally.

"A Cool Place to Grow...A Cool Place to Live": Black and White Oaks, Thimbleberry, and Douglas Fir.

8. Trail Leg Down into the Canyon

As the trail drops further into the canyon there will be a sharp temperature drop and increase in moisture! At this point the falls have been blocked from view by the surrounding forest until about midway down the trail leg.

The background sound of the falls gradually rises as we approach the next switchback.

9. Switchback Next to the Falls.

"Roaring Falls and Trickling Streams": The underground Aquifer feeding Burney Creek and the Falls from Burney Mountain 15 miles away via underground river channels and a taste of the volcanic geology creating the aquifer.

"A Home Behind the Falls": Black Swifts nest behind the falls during the summer building them from the lichens and mosses.... More

10. The Pool and Traveling Downstream.

Burney's Pool has been a destination for thousands of years. The Illmawi, the local Pit River tribe continues it's traditions here.

The Park recommends that visitors stay out of the water due to the turbulent currents, 22 foot depth, and 48 degree water! If one doesn't mind the cold water, it does look like a great swim.

Head downstream along... More

11. Burney Creek Fishing

"Burney Creek Fishing": Teaming with aquatic life, Lower Burney Creek hosts Rainbow Trout, Sculpin, freshwater clams, mussels, otters, and insects.

The Rainbow Trout's native, the brown and brook trout are introduced and self sustaining.

Fishing Season: Last Saturday in April through September 15.

12. Interpretive Signage: Vegitation

"Bordering Burney Creek": Identifying the local vegitation. Species covered here include: Vine Maple, Sierra Gooseberry, Flowering Currant, and White Alder.

Most of these plants within this region grow only in the cool moist environment presented withing Lower Burney Creek Canyon.

13. Rainbow Footbridge Crossing

Cross Burney Creek at Rainbow Footbridge and Junction. The trail will start a climb back toward Burney Falls and avoid much of the steep return climb at the hike's start. The rest of the hike is on unpaved trails.

There will be points where the trail does get moderately steep but it will be in short segments. The trail provides some great views... More

14. Trail Junction: PSEA Trail

Shortly after crossing the footbridge a junction will be reached. Continue up the Falls Loop Trail.

The Falls Trail winds, does a few switchbacks, gets narrow along some steep slopes, and generally runs back up-canyon toward the top of Burney Falls. Plenty of views "down" into the canyon. It might be a good idea in places to stop first, then... More

15. Base of switchback

Base of a switchback and Burney Falls overlook. This will be the last view of the falls. Expect a short steep climb to the summit.

For adults, it's not bad at all...unless they have small children who will be getting pretty tired at this point. My sympathies to the couple with the youngsters.

16. Summit and top of climb

A last bit of climb out of the canyon. The top of Burney Falls is hidden from view behind brush but there's a nice view upstream and across the canyon to the trails below at the pool's base.

I'll mention it a couple times. The Park has closed off the access to the top of Burney Falls. The geology is unstable, unsafe. The fencing is there for a... More

17. Heading upstream

The trail levels out as it heads upstream toward Fisherman's Bridge.

18. Junction Fisherman's Bridge and Pacific Crest Trail

Trail Junction.

Fisherman's Bridge provides both creek access and...fishing. It also represents a significant shortcut back to the starting point.

To continue upstream, head up the hill a short way to the Pacific Crest Trail. The surrounding country levels out for what will be essentially a flat walk upstream.

19. Pacific Crest Trail

This next trail segment follows a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail along a bench over Burney Creek. The creek's out of sight and hearing along most of this forested path...but never far away.

The trail's grade is essentially flat and lightly traveled. The trail's open to equestrian use and surprisingly, I didn't notice any evidence of mountain... More

20. Fork in the trail

The trail simply splits and rejoins, both paths appear equally traveled.

21. Boundary Marker

A boundary Marker marking a corner common to McArthur-Burney and the adjoining Lassen National Forest. Jump southwest and you can visit a second park today.

Lat: 41.00807 North
Lon: 121.65047 West
Elev: 3004.3

Taken on a Garmin Oregon 550t.

22. Fork in the trail

The trail simply splits and rejoins, both paths appear equally traveled.

23. Pacific Crest Trail continues

A meander through Ponderosa Pine and Douglass Fir forest passing the periodic opening and small meadow. An easy walk.

24. Headwaters Horse Camp

An environmental horse accessible campground lies along the trail at this point that's also easily accessible from Clark Creek Road.

The grounds are outfitted with picnic benches, food lockers, potable water, corrals, and restrooms. Just off-site is a parking lot suitable for trailers. The grounds themselves are gently shaded and provide ready... More

25. Meadow to the Pacific Crest Footbridge

The trail continues past the horse camp in a broad curve skirting a meadow and open forest area, generally on a flat grade. Just after the meadow, the trail cuts down to the Pacific Crest Footbridge crossing Burney Creek not far from the Park's southerly point.

26. Upper Burney Creek and Junction

Easy water access all along the upper creek! The comparatively still and deeper pools contrast the faster running creek downstream.

Take the Headwaters Trail paralleling Burney Creek just north of the bridge.

The Pacific Crest Trail continues north, crossing HWY 89.

27. Headwaters Trail

The Headwaters Trail has several personalities. Upstream, it snakes it's way through short up and down grades in a lightly forested rocky stretch as it follows Burney Creek.

There's periodic paths down to what appears to be favored fishing holes.

28. Headwaters Pool

Burney Creek forms a slow moving pool.

29. Upper Burney Creek

A winding and variable grade back downstream toward the Falls. Alternately forested and open with plenty of creek access points.

30. Interpretive Signage: Burney Creek food chain.

Discussion on the aquatic food chain in Burney Creek.

31. Stone Pump House

The old Pump House and water intake servicing the older cabins and staff housing.

Interpretive Signage: "At the Creekside". Flora and insect life along the creek.

32. Burney Creek Access

An ADA accessible platform overlooks Burney Creek adjacent to the pump house. Just downstream are the old water intake and a small beachhead.

33. Junction

Access (ADA) down to the Pump House and creek.

34. Sidetrails

Side trails down to the creek.

35. Trail Head

Park Service Road Trail Head to the Headwaters Trail. A small parking area and turnout.

36. Trail Access to Fisherman's Bridge

Service Road gravel parking area and alternate trail heads to Fisherman's Bridge and Headwaters Trail.

37. Fisherman's Bridge Trail Head

At the same parking area is the trail down to Fisherman's Bridge.

38. Incense Cedar

An example of Incense Cedar and interpretive signage.

A member of the Cyprus family of trees, it has scaled, not needle leaves.

The 3rd most common tree species in the park. Commercially, not as valued as the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. It's useful in fencing, roofing, pencils, and similar applications. The local Indians found the soft wood ... More

39. Side Trail

A side trail down to Burney Creek.

Interpretive signage on the Local Geology and how such a small creek can pump 1 million gallons a day over Burney Falls.

40. Ponderosa Pine

Interpretive signage and example trees.

The Ponderosa Pine grows in areas with dry summers and is well adapted to frequent fires.

Look for "Puzzle Bark", triplet needles, and prickley cones.

41. Burney Falls Overlook

The trail out to the top of the falls from here has been closed and rerouted for quite some time. Like across the creek, the underlying ground is unstable.

42. Pathway

A path back to the starting point.

43. Interpretive: Trees Tell Tales

Interpretive signage: Trees Tell Tales".

A Ponderosa Pine cross section displaying the tree rings and it's growth during historical events.

44. Return to Trail Head

End of walk with plenty of time to head down to Lake Britton or hike another trail such as: The Pioneer Cemetery and Cemetery Cove, (Lower) Burney Creek Trail, or the Rim Trail.