In this blog I will help you to plan your trip to Central Northern California.
The city of Redding will be our “starting and ending point”; I will describe the places I visited North and East of the city, in Shasta and Siskiyou Counties.
The “Waterfalls Loop” is a 200 miles road-trip that visits several waterfall locations, among the most beautiful waterfalls in California, as well as other great outdoor hikes.
You can add to this trip itinerary additional nearby northern California Parks or connect it to your Oregon trip.
Below, I will describe my recommended trip and short description and link to each location.
I have been here several times, on my way from California to Oregon vacations and also recently (Oct. 2021) where I dedicate a weekend to explore this region and to do the “waterfall loop” road-trip.
As always in my blogs, pictures are important part of my visiting experience and I have many pictures in each blog.
The Road Trip Planner:
When coming to plan your visit you should ask yourself few questions:
- How long you plan to dedicate to this area?
- What are your main interests (hiking, fishing, lake activities, only viewpoints,) and ability to hike?
How many days to plan for:
I will recommend dedicating to this trip 3 full days.
My 3 days plan for this “Waterfall Loop” does not take into consideration visiting the nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park (2 days) or Lava Beds National Monument (1 day).
Yes, you can do this 200 miles drive in one long day, starting early in the morning and drive between locations, only come to each location for a very short visit and only enjoy viewpoints with short walks without any hike.
The different attractions/parks in my recommendation list are open year-round.
During winter month you must take into consideration the rain and also snowstorms that may cause you to change your plans (this is especially relevant for high elevation mountain parks like Castle Crags SP and Lassen Volcanic NP).
Springtime is ideal for best rivers water flows and best waterfalls experience.
Warm Summer is best time for swimming, Kayaking and lakes activities, but it can be very crowded, especially at main attractions locations and parks.
The autumn or early winter may be the perfect time to visit here, a lot fewer other visitors so you can really enjoy your hikes and you will have yellow color leaves viewing.
1 day road-trip plan:
In one day trip this will be mainly driving to the different locations and viewing the waterfalls with only short walks + one hike at the afternoon.
From Redding drive east to McArthur Burney Falls State Park (during summer weekends it is better to be here early morning before it gets crowded). Plan for 1 hour drive + 1 hour at the park, short walk down to the waterfall base.
Drive to McCloud River Falls, visit all 3 waterfalls by driving their parking lot (no need to hike) and enjoy the view, walk down to the Middle Fall base, this waterfall is the most impressive of all 3 waterfalls. Plan for 1-2 hours visit.
From McCloud River Falls drive east to Castle Lake and hike to Heart Lake, one of the best hikes in northern California. This is 2-3 hours hike (total 2.4 miles), the view from Heart Lake during the afternoon is worth the climb.
If you do not want to hike to Heart Lake or it is already too late at the afternoon you can visit Lake Siskiyou and the nearby Faery falls (short 1.5-mile easy hike) or visit Hedge Creek Falls, this is 30-60 minutes stop on your I5 south drive back to Redding.
3 days plan:
In my 3 days suggestion I will combine some driving, waterfall viewing, and hiking.
I describe the driving loop counterclockwise, but it can be done also in the opposite direction.
In both directions I recommend spending 2 nights at the same place, Mount Lassen town (or other nearby locations) just off I5.
If you are camping than you are more flexible and can use the National Forest and the many available campground options.
Hatchet Creek Falls or Potem Creek Falls side visit:
If you did road-trip clockwise and you are driving from McArthur Burney Falls to Redding and you still have time, I highly recommend visiting Hatchet Creek Falls or Potem Creek Falls. I’m not recommending visiting them on your way from Redding to McArthur Burney Falls because I want to make sure you are getting to Burney Falls early in the morning, before the crowd and the traffic, and that you will have enough time to properly hike and enjoy McCloud River Falls.
Day 1 (McArthur Burney Falls State Park, McCloud River Falls):
From Redding drive east to McArthur Burney Falls State Park, this is 63-mile-long drive (1hr 15 min). In Summer and weekends, it is important to be here early morning before it gets crowded and waiting time. Plan for 1.5-hour drive + 1 hour at the park, walk down to the waterfall base.
You can extend your park visit by hiking one of the forest trails to the park large lake.
From McArthur Burney Falls Drive to McCloud River Falls, here we will do our main hike for the day.
I recommend to park at the lower waterfall parking lot (just follow the signs).
From here you will hike 4 miles along the river to see Middle Fall (this waterfall is the most beautiful of all 3 waterfalls), climb the trail and keep hiking all the way to Upper waterfall. Plan for 3-4 hours visit here.
After your visit drive west and sleep at Mount Shasta (you will have 2 nights here).
Day 2 (Faery falls, Lake Siskiyou, Castle Lake, Heart Lake):
Start your day visiting Faery falls, a short 20-minutes’ drive to the trailhead and 2 hours of easy-going hike to the waterfall and back.
From here you can go and spend some time at Lake Siskiyou or drive up to Castle Lake.
After enjoying the lakes activity, the day highlight will be the hike to Heart Lake.
From Castle Lake parking the trail will take you up into the mountains above Castle Lake, plan for 1 hour hiking up, additional 1 hour at the top and 1 hour hiking back down. If you can plan your visit to the afternoon just before sunset, you will get the best view of mount Shasta glowing with sunset light.
After your visit drive back to your hotel at Mount Shasta.
Day 3 (Castle Crags State Park, Hedge Creek Falls, Mossbrae Falls):
From Mount Shasta drive south on I5, day 3 main attraction is visiting Castle Crags State Park and hiking to Castle dome.
On your way south you can have a short 30-60 minutes stop and hike at Hedge Creek Falls.
You can also hike to Mossbrae Falls, I did not visit here yet, so I do not have a dedicated Blog. The hike along the train tracks can be dangerous but the waterfall view is worth it.
The Castle dome hike (5.2 miles with elevation gains of 2,200 ft.) is long and with a lot of elevation gain, plan for half day visit, the surrounding mountains and gorge view from the top of the mountain worth it.
After your Castle Crags State Park visit you will drive south on I5 to Redding.
If you have enough time and energy on your way south, you can visit Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark (located north of lake Shasta bridge crossing).
Lassen Volcanic National Park:
I do not describe here visit at this beautiful park. From McArthur Burney Falls State Park it is only 40 miles south and you are reaching Lassen Volcanic National Park entrance.
You need to dedicate at 2 more day just to this park visit.
The Park main road (highway 89) is close during winter month and depending on slow level it may be open only at late summer.
Coming from Oregon:
In my description I started my road-trip loop recommendation from the city of Redding.
Because this road-trip planner is located at the northern part of California you can start your visit here by coming from the north, from Oregon.
You can drive south on the main I5 or approach this area from the east, driving south on highway 97 (from Bend and Klamath Falls).
If you are coming/going to Klamath Falls or Bend Oregon I highly recommend adding 1 day visit at Lava Beds National Monument.
Things I do not cover in my blogs:
I do not cover in my blog accommodations arrangements as I mainly sleep in campgrounds and in my car.
Locations list with a link to the detailed blog post:
Majestic Castle Crags 6000-feet tall granite spires are located above Castle Crags State Park. The Park offers a variety of camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing opportunities.
The Park is located just off highway 5, 14 miles south of the City of Mount Shasta and 21 miles north of Shasta Lake.
A very short 5-minute walk will take you to a 30-foot-high waterfall and access to the Sacramento River.
The trail is located at the town of Dunsmuir, north of Redding on highway I5, exit 732.
A small-sized heart-shaped lake located above Castle Lake. A short but highly rewording 1.3 miles hike (800 feet elevation gain) climb up from Castle Lake will bring you to the high ridge with a clear view of Mt. Shasta and Castle Lake below you.
One of my most recommended hike in this area.
Lake Siskiyou is a reservoir formed by Box Canyon Dam on the Sacramento River, located just 2.3 miles from Mount Shasta, in Siskiyou County, near Pioneer, CA.
Nearby Faery Fall hike is highly recommended, a short 1.5-mile hike will take you to the 50-foot waterfall.
The McCloud River has three impressive waterfalls along a short river gorge section, you can enjoy the waterfalls viewpoints or hike the 4 miles trail that is connecting all 3 waterfalls.
The waterfalls are located 5 miles east of McCloud on highway 89 in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
McArthur Burney Falls State Park attraction is Burney Falls, probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in California. Short trail will take you to the waterfall viewpoint and to the bottom of the waterfall.
The Park is located northeast of Redding, six miles north of Highway 299 on Highway 89 near Burney.
Hatchet Creek Falls, or known also as Lion Slide Falls, is a popular swimming hole and cliff jumping destination in Shasta County. The trail and the waterfall are on private property, visiting here is at your own risk.
Located just off highway 299 on Big Bend Road, between Redding and Burney.
You can visit here on your way to/from McArthur Burney Falls.
Located east of Redding on highway 299 in Shasta-Trinity National Forest the 70-foot-tall Potem Creek Falls drop is impressive, and it has a large swimming pool. 7 miles forest road and a short walk will lead you to this hidden gem.
You can visit here on your way to/from McArthur Burney Falls.
Additional nearby attractions:
On top of the recommended loop you can visit several other National Parks and nature attractions at the Central Northern California.
I still do not have dedicated blog post for the below nearby location: