McArthur-Burney Falls: A Mesmerizing Waterfall in Northern California

I don’t get up to Northern California more than a couple of times a year so I have been waiting for about 3 months in order to see the ridiculously amazing McAurther-Burney Falls. I had seen tons of pictures and only hoped that when I saw it in real life it would be as amazing as it appears in photos. I couldn’t even believe how much more amazing it was in real life. The pictures are great but this waterfall has to be seen to be believed.

I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, I have been blessed to be able to travel a lot and have seen everything from the mud falls of Ethiopia to Multnomah in Portland. I have to say though this is one of the more amazing ones I have seen. The falls appear like something out of a National Geographic and the blue water below makes you feel like you have left California. I mean the state park itself is pretty much wholly based on this waterfall as there is not a lot else to do there, but boy is the 8 dollar entrance fee worth it.

Getting there

The state park in which Burney Falls is located is about 45 minutes east of the town of Redding.You drive on the two lane Highway 299 most of the way and when I did the run in the morning I only saw a handful of cars. At Highway 89 you will head North and after about 8 miles see the turn for the falls. The parking lot itself is literally a hundred yards off the road and after paying the 8 dollar day use cost you can enter the park. There are bathrooms and two gift shops near the parking lot as well as a handful of camp sites further down. From the parking lot you proceed less than 50 feet before you get to the falls overlook.

The Waterfall

The waterfall itself is very wide and has both an upper flow of water and a middle flow of water. The middle flow is actually fed by an underground river that runs below the creek above. This is what really makes the falls stand out as you see water coming from the top but also out of a dozen holes right in the middle of the falls.

The falls themselves are about 120 feet and you will want to plan on a decent amount of time here just walking around and soaking everything in. They even told us that the falls do almost a constant flow rate of 100 million gallons per day year round.

The Falls Trail

If you are feeling more adventurous then you can take the 1.2 mile loop that takes you to the base of the falls then up around the backside before it returns you to the parking lot. This trial is a great idea as it gives you a lot of views of the falls that you do not get from above. It is a mile, but the trail is not very difficult so most people shouldn’t have a hard time doing it. Plus, it looks like the below picture, so even the trail is pretty beautiful.

If you are wondering whether you can get in the water, there is a sign saying that you cannot. I saw people walking down there but it is not recommended and I never saw anyone actually get in the water.

After completing the loop through some beautiful forest, two bridge river crossings and a field of moss-covered rocks you will arrive back at your car, hopefully as ecstatic as I was to see something as beautiful as this. It is said that Teddy Roosevelt dubbed this place “the eighth wonder of the world” when he saw it for the first time.

So all this to say you need to see this waterfall, it is that awesome.

You can get directions below and see the rest of the photos. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

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  • Wow, great pictures! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Burney Falls. Further proof I need to do a trip up to Northern California… just wish the drive wasn’t so long from LA!

    • Ya I don’t get up there a ton either, but it is like a different state with all of the cool stuff you can do up there! You should plan a long weekend 🙂

  • We’re taking a trip up to Northern Cal in a few weeks & this place managed to make our list. We hadn’t heard much about it, but saw pictures & figured it would be worth checking out. Glad to know it’ll be worth the trek. Thanks for all the amazing photos. Now I’m really excited!

  • Erick

    Thanks great article and very informative. Love the pics.

  • I live in a beautiful part of England but…man, this is where I need to be.

    • Ya, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it for the first time, such an amazing place!

  • Nicholas Michael Bustamante

    I camp up there almost every summer. Its awesome, and the waterfalls pool is so cold. You can’t swim in it for very long. Even the strongest of swimmers will start to get real damn cold without a wetsuit. The sign is there because a kid drowned in it several years back

    • Thanks for the comment! I want to camp there in the future I bet it would be awesome!

    • James Burrus

      Have you been there this year? Is there still a waterfall since we didn’t really have any snow.(2014)

      • Nicholas Michael Bustamante

        There should be. This waterfall is fed mostly from an underwater spring.

  • val

    So when is the best time of the year to really see the falls at their best?

    • Spring is the best time, especially if we have a good rain this year to help with the drought.

  • Great place to hangout with family

    • I agree, it is an amazing place!

  • Victor

    As a kid in the mid 60s, we could swim there and swim we did. At that time you could swim/wade all the way downstream to Lake Britain. It’s pretty cold but awesome. It’s too bad that swimming is no longer allowed. I understand why…still too bad. There was also a great pioneer cemetery within walking distance. Too bad vandals ruined it….

    • Wow that would be an amazing place to swim! Thanks for the comment!

  • Heather

    No one is allowed in the water? My mother took a photo of herself near the waterfall in the water when she was nine months pregnant with me… I already paid for the vacation for Mother’s Day! when we get there I’m setting up my tripod and taking a photo 30 years later of us in the water! Hope all goes well :-

    • Nice, I am not sure what the regulations are on getting in the water but I hope you have a fun trip!

  • Joe Flores

    Is the trail wheelchair accessible?

    • It is paved to the overlook from the parking lot and the trail all the way to the base is paved as well. Unfortunately, I believe there is a small section of stairs near the top of the trail and a small section of stairs near the very bottom as well.