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Stories from the valley

McArthur-Burney Falls: A Particularly Memorable State Park

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is a wonderful destination for the fall. Located about an hour’s drive northeast of Redding, the park offers hiking and camping opportunities, a general store, and, of course, the majestic Burney Falls themselves, described by Theodore Roosevelt as “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

My wife had visited Burney Falls forty years ago and fell in love with the falls. It was at her urging that we drove the extra miles to see the falls when we were in Redding, and I’m so glad we did. What a beautiful sight!

The landscape in and around Burney Falls is volcanic in nature, the rock formations having a somewhat porous consistency. Water from runoff and snowmelt gathers in an underground reservoir that emerges to form Burney Creek and Burney Falls.

When you view the falls, you can bask in the beauty of the 129-foot major cascade created when water from Burney Creek plummets to the pool below, but numerous smaller waterfalls originate directly from the rock face around the falls too. This creates a natural wonder that is unique and breathtakingly beautiful.

Upon leaving the parking area, visitors quickly descend into the misty basin on a somewhat steep but well developed path. They’re rewarded with spectacular views of the entire falls and will notice a significant temperature drop, which is refreshing on warm days.

Many people appreciate the coolness and are content to enjoy the view from the water’s edge of the basin. Some visitors opt to continue on the 1.3-mile Falls Loop Trail, traveling across a picturesque wooden footbridge, up the other side of the canyon, and across another footbridge to return to the parking lot. Anglers can take up to two trout out of Burney Creek, per regulations.

Even though this state park is a bit remote, I highly recommend a visit. The park is well developed with nice amenities. Hikers of all abilities can travel the Falls Loop Trail. During the high season parking can be a problem, so I suggest arriving early. More visitor information is available here and here.