A Shot of Whiskey

Hiking to Whiskeytown Falls in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area outside of Redding, Northern California

Whiskeytown Falls is a relative newcomer. While a few locals knew of its existence, it wasn’t largely shared, and there wasn’t a trail—until 2004. That’s when park biologist Russ Weatherbee “discovered” the falls while viewing aerial photos. Soon the park got to work on building a trail to the 220-foot-tall falls. While the spring snowmelt is a great time to see the falls gushing, autumn’s colors and some rain also make this hike magical. While the road getting you to the parking area seems off the beaten path, you won’t get lost on the 1.7-mile (one-way) hike; there’s really only one trail, and it goes to Whiskeytown Falls!

Start with a brief downhill before crossing over Crystal Creek on a footbridge. It’s a fairly steady ascent through a steep ravine as you move away from Crystal Creek and into the forest of Douglas firs, ponderosa pines, and incense cedars. The trail levels out at a picnic area with nice access to the creek, festooned in decorative rock piles. The trail parallels the creek again, with bigleaf maples splashing yellow and orange hues. Then the falls appear: while impressive at first, you don’t realize just how long these falls are until you climb the stairs to the left. As you go up and up, the falls continue coming down and down! A viewing platform is your end mark. But the mystique continues, because it’s not possible to see the start of the falls—they’re way too high up, and not accessible on the terrain. No matter. What you do see is absolutely waterfall!

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From Redding, drive 16 miles west on Hwy. 299 to Crystal Creek Rd. There will be a sign for Whiskeytown Falls. Turn left here and drive 3.7 miles to the parking area. Whiskeytown Falls is in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Dog-friendly!

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