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Burney Falls

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

July 27th, 2007

1.2 miles
180 vertical feet
Total Time: 1:25

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From Lassen National Park, take Highway 89 north. Follow 89 for about 40 miles from the northwest entrance to Lassen. Turn left into McArthur-Burney Memorial State Park. The entrance fee was $6 as of this writing.   View Driving Map


I'd read great things about the falls, but I was expecting to be disappointed because of the dry year. I needn't have been concerned. You can hear the falls from the parking lot before you see them. From the trailhead, you walk down a few steps to reach an overlook of the falls. The main falls are split in two, falling 129 feet down to a pool below. But that's not all, as water seeps through the surrounding walls and adds to the effect, creating a wide cascade.

Burney Falls from the overlook (1/20 second exposure)

Burney Falls from the overlook (1/6 second exposure)

The overlook isn't the best place to view the falls, though. The trail continues down a paved walkway, then makes a u-turn and continues through the forest toward the base of the falls. It's along this part of the trail where you get your best views of the falls, peeking through the trees. The closer you get, the better the views. Soon you can feel the mist from the falls. The trail zig-zags down until it stops at the rock-strewn base. Unfortunately the lighting from here wasn't the best when we arrived around 2pm. If you want the best view from the base of the falls, you may want to arrive in the morning or later in the afternoon. I'm not sure how that time difference would affect the view from earlier on the trail, however.

Trail down to the base of the falls

Burney Falls from the trail above

This isn't much of a wilderness hike, as it's paved much of the way, with garbage cans spaced generously along the trail. We continued along the trail as it follows Burney Creek below the falls. On the right is a steep talus slope filled with thousands of rocks about the size of bowling balls. On the left is the fast-moving creek, headed toward Lake Britton. You can follow the trail all the way to the lake; we turned left and crossed the footbridge to do the Falls Loop, which is well-signed.

Trail down to the base

Burney Falls

Base of Burney Falls

Burney Falls

After crossing the bridge, the trail is no longer paved. It continues to follow the creek a short distance. You can continue to follow it along the creek, but we turned left and followed the trail uphill. The trail heads back toward the falls, but the views of the falls aren't great here because of all the trees in the way. Once again, you could follow the trail along the creek past the falls, but we turned left and crossed another bridge upstream from the falls.

Talus above the trail

Talus above the trail

After crossing the bridge, we turned left and returned to the parking lot. While the hike experience probably only deserves a 7 rating, I have to give it an 8 because of the unique beauty of the falls themselves. To be honest, they were much prettier than any falls we saw in Yosemite a month earlier. At 129 feet in height, they're not going to win any size contest, but they may just be the prettiest falls in California. If I'm wrong, please let me know what falls you think beats it so that I can see for myself!

Bridge over Burney Creek

Burney Creek rushing down toward Lake Britton

Peeking through the trees at Burney Falls


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