With a name like Feather Falls, one might imagine a trickling cascade. Oh how names can be deceiving. Lording just east of Oroville in the foothills of the northern Sierra, Feather Falls—the 6th tallest waterfall in the U.S.—packs more power than Thor. And you can’t reach this 640-foot stunner by car. The only way to see Feather Falls is via a 4.5-mile (one-way) hike or bike ride. We recommend the latter for some fast-tracked, fat-tire fun. Dart and coast downhill for the first few miles through a ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forest and across fully flowing Frey Creek before coming to a clearing with dramatic and dizzying views of the deep Middle Fork Feather River Canyon. Look directly across and you might think you’re in Yosemite: Bald Rock Dome, a granite monolith rising 2,000 feet above Feather River, makes a grand impression. But this is just the tip of the payoff. The marquee spectacle is a couple miles away. It’s best to dismount your bike for the final half-mile (tuck it in the shrubbery but watch for poison oak!) and hike the rest of the way to the big wooden viewing platform jutting over the Fall River Canyon and providing a dead-on view of walloping Feather Falls. Look down and the bottom of the falls disappear—its force so strong it kicks back up water explosions. Take your photos and return the way you came. Feather in your cap!
Feather Falls is in Plumas National Forest 18 miles east of Oroville. Here’s a map to the trailhead. The trail forks after a quarter-mile, giving you two options: the longer 4.5-mile trail and the shorter 3.5-mile trail. Bikes should always go the longer way both directions (Currently the shorter way has a washed-out bridge.) The bike ride is for intermediate riders and has a lot of uphill on the return trip. If in doubt, hike the route but give yourself plenty of time: it’s 9 miles round-trip. Dog-friendly!